Giants trying not to dwell on poor spring

Giants trying not to dwell on poor spring

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Giants' excess of springtime defeats has become too huge to ignore.

Conventional wisdom dictates, and history illustrates, that Spring Training statistics and records have virtually no bearing on what happens in the regular season. During March, pitchers focus on getting their work in, not getting outs. Hitters lack the timing that sustains them through the summer. Efficiency isn't yet routine.

Yet even from this perspective, the Giants' performance prompts concern. They dropped to 6-17-2, the worst exhibition mark in the Major Leagues, as they were outhit 17-4 on Thursday and fell, 8-1, to the Los Angeles Angels. San Francisco must win four of its final nine exhibitions, not including next Wednesday's date against Triple-A Fresno, to reach double figures in victories -- a level that 16 other teams already achieved entering Thursday.

These observations legitimately can be greeted with a collective "So what?" But with the Giants embarking upon their transition to the post-Barry Bonds era, they're striving for respectability. And a .261 winning percentage isn't respectable.

"If we walk into L.A. on Opening Day and do what we're doing now, we're going to get boat-raced," left-hander Jack Taschner said. "We want to go into L.A. and set a tone for the season. That's the place to do it."

Manager Bruce Bochy has repeated that his team, bereft of stars, must excel at "the little things" to be competitive. These days, Bochy said, "we're not doing them. Like I said, that'll be the difference between us being a good ballclub and mediocre. Right now, we aren't even playing decent ball. At this point, we're making too many mistakes."

Those lapses are multidimensional.

The pitching staff, the backbone of any club, has compiled a 7.11 ERA, worst in the Majors.

Eugenio Velez, who's so promising offensively but hasn't mastered a defensive position, botched a grounder at third base for the Giants' 30th error. They led all of baseball in this dubious category entering Thursday's game.

San Francisco's .253 batting average is the lowest among the Cactus League's 12 teams.

"We need to turn it up here. There's no getting around it," Bochy said. "We're actually getting in good situations; we're not getting a hit or getting them in."

Thursday, Dan Ortmeier grounded into a second-inning double play with runners on first and second and nobody out. Two innings later, Velez reached third with one out but was erased at home on Aaron Rowand's fielder's-choice grounder.

Interestingly, several Giants who will occupy prominent roles have hit capably, including Ray Durham (.436), Bengie Molina (.381), Randy Winn (.357), Rich Aurilia (.333) and Dave Roberts (.317). But injuries and typical Spring Training substitution patterns have limited the projected regulars' playing time alongside each other.

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"We need to get everybody on the field," Bochy said. "That would help a lot."

With a week and a half remaining before the March 31 season opener at Los Angeles, the Giants have sufficient time to right themselves. But Taschner warned that this won't happen automatically.

"It's not a light switch," Taschner said. "We need to start winning some games. We need to find our identity -- what are we going to be? Are we going to be the scrappers?"

Referring to the "Find the swagger" slogan on the backs of the Giants' conditioning T-shirts, Taschner added, "Where's our swagger? Swagger doesn't put you at seven-and-whatever we are in Spring Training. It's hard. A lot of guys are fighting for positions, myself included. But at the same time, you should be able to win more games."

Predictably, the veterans are remaining calm.

The exhibition season, Rowand said, is "more about preparation to get ready for when it does count. We're not living or dying with every win or loss here in Spring Training. Nobody gets a prize for winning the Cactus League."

Rowand, who's batting .277, acknowledged that now's an ideal time for upgrading performance. "The last week and a half is when you start seeing a lot of things coming together," he said. "It takes that long after the course of an offseason to get back to where you want to be."

Aurilia pointed out that a handful of the successful Giants teams he played on during his previous tour of duty with the team (1995-2003) struggled through spring. The 1998-2001 clubs, which all finished well above .500, compiled an aggregate 45-76 exhibition mark. Aurilia also recalled his stint with the 2004 Seattle Mariners, who finished 18-10 in exhibitions. They proceeded to finish last in the American League West at 63-99.

"You want to start playing good ball by the end of the spring, doing things that you're supposed to do to win games," Aurilia said. "But you can't really take the record too seriously."

Roberts emphasized that although the results are ugly, much of the work behind the results is being accomplished.

"If you look at the big picture of what Spring Training is for, as far as pitchers getting their innings, the guys in the bullpen making the most of their opportunities and guys for the most part swinging the bats pretty well -- come March 31, I'd like to think we're going to be right where we're supposed to be," Roberts said.

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