SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Nori Aoki showed Wednesday that he’s good at adjusting on the fly. Near the end of a long interview conducted through translator Kosuke Inaji, Aoki was asked to judge Tim Hudson’s running form on a double to left.
“Bad,” Aoki quickly said in English.
He switched back to Japanese and added with a smile that “it looks like his legs aren’t moving that well.”
As Opening Day approaches, Aoki has shown an ability to adjust on the field, too. He slumped through the first two weeks of Cactus League action but has six hits in the last four games, including an RBI triple in the fifth inning Wednesday.
Aoki has shown all spring that he works a count and puts pressure on the opposition, and if he continues to reach base, manager Bruce Bochy may have an easy decision when he pens his Opening Day lineup. The new left fielder hit leadoff Wednesday, as he has done most of the spring, with Angel Pagan sliding down to the third spot in his first game back from back tightness.
“We’re still looking at it, I’ll leave it at that,” Bochy said. “Hopefully this works. I think it could work with the way Aoki grinds at-bats and finds ways to get on base, and I like Angel in the three-hole. But we’ll see how it goes in the next nine to 10 days.”
Of Aoki’s 384 big league starts, 336 have come in the leadoff spot and 48 have come hitting second.
“It’s something I try to do, hit either leadoff or second,” Aoki said through Inaji. “I have the most experience hitting in those two positions.”
Aoki hasn’t talked to Joe Panik, the No. 2 hitter, about strategy yet, but said he will if the two are atop the lineup. Panik doesn’t mind taking a pitch to let the leadoff hitter try and steal a bag, and Aoki said he hopes to run more now that he’s back in the National League. He stole 50 bags in two seasons in Milwaukee but had it down to 17 in his lone season in Kansas City.
“I feel like I can be more aggressive,” Aoki said. “I’m always ready to take the extra base.”
Regardless of where he hits in the lineup, the Giants already have decided that Aoki will play left field. A right fielder most of his career, he said he didn’t mind the decision.
“It’s no problem at all,” he said. “I have experience playing all three positions. I feel like I can play center, right or left.”