SAN FRANCISCO — Bruce Bochy was planning to keep a close eye on Nori Aoki and Gregor Blanco this week to see which player would be a better fit atop the lineup. Now, there’s no decision to be made.
Aoki was pulled after four innings of Wednesday’s 2-0 loss to the Houston Astros and was showing signs of a concussion. After getting hit in the head by a pitch Sunday, Aoki passed a concussion test the next day and passed further tests on Tuesday. But Bochy said Aoki felt lightheaded and dizzy in the early innings Wednesday.
"He’ll be reevaluated tomorrow and we’ll decide what to do," Bochy said. "He felt fine yesterday. He was evaluated. We’ll know more tomorrow, but he showed symptoms. My guess is we’ll have to be careful here.”
The Giants likely will place Aoki on the 7-day concussion DL on Thursday, and it’s unclear how they’ll fill his roster spot. Ryan Lollis and Jarrett Parker are Triple-A outfielders on the 40-man roster but neither is viewed as particularly big-league ready. Kevin Frandsen is hitting .292 with the River Cats and can play left field in a reserve role, but he’s not on the 40-man roster.
One solution, albeit an imperfect one, would be to end Andrew Susac’s rehab assignment after two games (the Giants had hoped to get him 20-30 at-bats), call him up and let Buster Posey play more first base with Brandon Belt getting more time in left field.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Giants shut out, fall 2-0 to Astros]
Of course, there’s also the answer that might make the most sense. Like with Jake Peavy a year ago and Mike Leake last month, Chase Utley is starting to look very much like a player who is just destined to be a Giant. Utley has cleared waivers and the Giants have asked the Phillies about the price. They came away thinking a deal could be struck if the Phillies come down on their demands just a bit.
Publicly, team officials said Wednesday that the front office is looking at all options to improve the team. Privately, several admitted that Utley, who lives in the Bay Area in the offseason, is starting to make too much sense not to happen.
Bobby Evans and the rest of the front office will spend this homestand trying to add depth, but for now, the Giants will patch it together. Bochy mentioned Justin Maxwell as one player who could help fill the void, and Maxwell made a spectacular catch when he replaced Aoki in the fifth inning.
“It’s a tough group out there,” Bochy said. “We’ve dealt with a lot. There’s nothing you do except go out and keep playing and hopefully someone picks us up … I think everyone would say they’d like another bat — it’s not that easy. Meanwhile, these are my 25 guys and I’ll go with them any day.”
--- Chris Heston had his best outing in a couple weeks, giving up just a solo homer to Colby Rasmus.
“I was trying to go away, I got lazy and it got back over the plate,” he said. “If I make the pitch it’s probably a different outcome, but you know, that’s part of it.”
Bochy thought Heston pitched a “terrific game” with “good stuff,” and the rookie said he would take the positives away from a lackluster day for the team.
“That’s definitely something to build off going into the rest of the season,” he said.
--- Fun with numbers: Brandon Crawford’s seventh-inning double left the bat at 107 mph, according to Statcast. That’s a big number.
--- Baseball America does a survey of managers every year, and a few Giants prospects showed up on their lists. Eastern League (Double-A) managers chose Kelby Tomlinson as the league’s best defensive second baseman. California League (High-A) managers said Ray Black has the league’s best fastball; he’s hit 103 in the past and sits at about 100. South Atlantic League managers chose Sam Coonrod as the league’s best pitching prospect and said he has the best breaking ball.
As for the big leaguers, Madison Bumgarner has the second best pickoff move, per National League managers. Julio Teheran finished first in the voting. Posey finished third in the balloting for best hitter, behind Paul Goldschmidt and Bryce Harper. Crawford finished third in the voting for best defensive shortstop, behind Andrelton Simmons and Adeiny Hechavarria. Bochy was voted best manager by his peers.