PHOENIX, Ariz. -- With the World Baseball Classic officially underway as of Friday night, the Giants are without many of their regulars.
That allows Bruce Bochy to find much more action for his less established players in camp. It’s a sink or swim situation for some of the Giants’ youngsters, and if Friday’s game was any indication, the skipper could put together an Olympic relay team.
In the 13-9 win over the Oakland Athletics, the Giants tallied 13 hits and only four of them came from projected members of the Opening Day starting lineup.
Angel Pagan had a single in his last game before playing for Puerto Rico in the WBC and Brandon Belt remained red-hot with three hits. Meanwhile, players with little-to-no chance of cracking the 25-man roster out of spring training, such as Brock Bond, Angel Villalona, Francisco Peguero, Juan Perez, and Gary Brown, shined at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
Earlier this spring, Bochy expressed disappointment in a lack of aggressiveness from some of the younger Giants. He changed his tune after the win, making a point to complement his less experienced players:
“They played great. They swung the bat well, with authority.”
Bond, who Insider Andrew Baggarly profiled earlier this week, hit his second home run of the spring after compiling just four long balls in six minor league seasons.
Villalona, who hasn’t played in a minor league or spring training game since 2009, pulverized a first-pitch fastball to show off the raw power that attracted the Giants to sign him to a then-club-record $2.1 million bonus in 2006.
Peguero, who hit just .188 in 16 at-bats in a cup of coffee with the Giants late last season, continues to make a strong push for a backup outfielder spot as he collected a triple as part of a two hit, two run, two RBI afternoon.
Juan Perez, who raised his average from .256 to .302 in his second season with Double-A Richmond, drove in two runs with a double after replacing Pagan in center.
And Gary Brown, who pushed Perez to left when he came into the game late, flashed the speed that makes him one of the Giants’ top prospects as he legged out a triple on a ball that got caught up in the right-field corner.
Bochy sounded like he was reading a role call as he attempted to praise every last one of Friday’s standout performances.
“Brock his second one … He’s been impressive in his at bats. And Villa, that ball just kept going. Perez. The kids played well today.”
Bochy, like an Oscar Award-winner, did his best to remember everyone who deserved credit. But he saved most of his breath for Bond, who doubled in addition to his home run, and flashed the leather for good measure.
“He’s not getting a lot of time, but he’s taking advantage of it,” Bochy said. “Made a great play when he first went in on that backhand play. He’s a guy that’s intriguing when you look at the numbers he’s put up in the minor leagues. The on-base [percentage] and the at-bats that he gives you.”
Even if Bond continues to rake while his playing time increases during the WBC, his shot at a roster spot is slim. But Bochy isn’t ready to rule anything out yet.
“He’s here in major league camp, so we’ll be open minded when it comes to down to that. Obviously we’re looking at a couple guys with experience, but also the fact that he’s here and did a great job last year, he’s put up great numbers, so he’s going to get some playing time.”
While roster spots are hard to come by on a team with so many established starters, it’s still very early in the spring to count anyone out. That’s especially true for Bond and Peguero, who could provide valuable depth in the infield and outfield, respectively.
With non-roster invitees Andres Torres (oblique) and Tony Abreu (leg) nursing injuries, and Kensuke Tanaka struggling at the plate and in the field, there will continue to be opportunities for the aforementioned youngsters to make their statements to Bochy and the front office brain trust. If Friday’s game is a sign of things to come, there will be some tough decisions to make as April approaches.
“We think a lot of these kids,” Bochy said. “I guess this is the silver lining of the WBC and players leaving, that these kids are going to get some playing time, including Brown. I like the way they’re swinging it. Peguero swung it good today. Brown got a big hit. Perez. You never know.”