Mailbag: Doesn't Velez add up at third?

Mailbag: How about Velez at third?

We all know that two of the Giants' predominant themes this spring have been, "Who plays third base?" and "Where does Eugenio Velez fit in?" Maybe I'm missing something else here, but why can't anyone in the Giants front office put 2 and 2 together and put Velez at third? With the comparisons between him and the Angels' Chone Figgins (who mostly starts at third, I might remind you), it just makes sense. If not that, put Kevin Frandsen at third and Velez at second.
-- Serafin G., Turlock, Calif.

You've probably noticed that the Giants have indeed started Velez at third in several Cactus League games. He hasn't mastered any position, but insiders believe that he could be best suited for third, where he can simply react much of the time and doesn't have to worry as much about subtleties such as footwork. Spring Training performance can be illusory, but the Giants fully realize that Velez makes things happen offensively more often than any other player. Frandsen or Rich Aurilia might begin the season at third base, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Velez there, perhaps sooner than later.

If the Giants are trying to inject more youth into the lineup, why in the world would they play Dave Roberts over Fred Lewis? It makes absolutely no sense, and they are wasting Lewis' career in favor of an overpaid fourth outfielder.
-- Bill S., San Jose, Calif.

For now, the Giants are willing to stick with Roberts, who hit .296 in last season's final three months once the effects of his May elbow surgery subsided. The Giants hope that's the Roberts they'll have for at least most of this season. If he slumps, I think they'll be quick to give Lewis more of an opportunity than he has received. I've written before in the mailbag that the Giants absolutely must find out exactly what they have in Lewis, because they risk squandering what could be an impressive package of talent.

With Noah Lowry out for a while, what are the chances of signing Kyle Lohse? Would the Giants consider anything like that?
-- Brian F., Cool, Calif.

Assuming that Lowry's recovery proceeds smoothly, signing a free agent such as Lohse who can command a seven-figure contract (although he hasn't yet found a buyer) wouldn't be cost-effective. The Giants are better off giving one of their own pitchers a chance to fill in and prove himself.

What is the chance that we see Emmanuel Burriss as the starting shortstop someday?
-- Tom O., Kingsburg, Calif.

Burriss is definitely part of the Giants' future, perhaps as soon as 2009. But with Brian Bocock having played so impressively at shortstop, Burriss might have to move to second base to make an impact in the lineup. He has practiced and played extensively at second this spring.

How do the Red Sox sign their ace reliever, Jonathan Papelbon, for $775,000 and we have Ray Durham playing this year for $7 million? I really don't understand why this team continues to overpay for these average players.
-- John D., Cincinnati

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It's all about time and timing. The Red Sox could have paid Papelbon any amount they wanted above the Major League minimum, since he lacks enough service time to qualify for salary arbitration. Durham received his current two-year, $14.5 million deal as a free agent after his strong 2006 season (.293, 26 homers, 93 RBIs). By the way, he's due to earn $7.5 million this season, not $7 million.

How is the bullpen going to look come Opening Day? It seems like a lot of relievers from last year are struggling. Does this mean manager Bruce Bochy is going to revamp the bullpen?
-- Elias, South San Francisco

There's little to revamp, since the Giants didn't obtain any new relievers during the offseason. Count on seeing Jack Taschner, Vinnie Chulk, Brad Hennessey, Tyler Walker and closer Brian Wilson in the Opening Day bullpen. But, based on Spring Training performances so far, Steve Kline might have to put up many more zeros to make the season-opening roster, although as a veteran he'll receive the benefit of the doubt. We could see fresh faces such as right-hander Merkin Valdez, who missed all of 2007 after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery, or left-hander Erick Threets, who has spent almost seven full seasons in the Minor Leagues. Both Valdez and Threets are out of Minor League options, giving the Giants more incentive to hold onto them.

From the looks of the box scores, Valdez has been very effective this spring. How is he looking in person in regards to velocity and demeanor?
-- Jon M., Paducah, Ky.

As the preceding response indicated, the box scores aren't lying. Valdez looks good statistically and otherwise. He might not throw quite as hard as he did before elbow surgery, but he certainly has enough velocity to succeed in the Majors, and he appears extremely calm and assured.

In response to the San Francisco Giants' all-time team in the last mailbag -- Omar Vizquel at shortstop? Chris, seriously, are you kidding me? Your mind says Vizquel but your heart says Chris Speier? Rich Aurilia is the 100 percent lock at this position. Speier played nine seasons in San Francisco, the last three at the end of career, and consistently hit about .240. Omar is a great defensive shortstop but is basically a No. 8 hitter at the end of his career in San Francisco on a losing team. Richie has played in about the same number of games in San Francisco as Speier, during the prime of his career, and has superior numbers, not to mention playing a central role on winners in 2000, 2002 and 2003. This one is a no-brainer.
-- Steve F., Pleasanton, Calif.

I'll plead guilty to the beat-writing affliction of occasionally ignoring what's right in front of me, since I say hi to Aurilia nearly every day. Although I won't back off from Vizquel, who's a borderline Hall of Famer, or Speier, who made three All-Star teams, Aurilia's offensive numbers, particularly from 1999-2001, are certainly tops among San Francisco shortstops. But as another reader pointed out, that's what's fun about these theoretical All-Time teams: If we all agreed on everything, what's the point?

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.