Aoki gathering speed heading into season

Giants outfielder raps RBI triple, could be San Francisco's leadoff man

Aoki gathering speed heading into season

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Something essential to know about Giants outfielder Nori Aoki is that he possesses a healthy sense of humor.

Aoki conducted an interview Wednesday with Bay Area-based Giants beat writers by relying on his translator, Kosuke Inoji. But when asked for his opinion of Tim Hudson's ponderous baserunning when the pitcher doubled during the third inning of the Giants' 5-2 Cactus League loss to the Colorado Rockies, Aoki answered the question himself in perfect English.

"Bad," a grinning Aoki said.

Thus, it can be assumed that Aoki knows the meaning of "good," which describes his recent performance. The native of Japan has batted .400 (6-for-15) in his last four Cactus League games after hitting .118 (4-for-34) in his first 12. Aoki continued his surge against Colorado with a scorching fifth-inning triple that scored Brandon Crawford with the Giants' first run.

Manager Bruce Bochy isn't certain whether he'll assign Aoki or Angel Pagan to the leadoff spot when the Giants open the regular season April 6 at Arizona. If Aoki continues to display anything close to this proficiency, he'll fit in any spot.

"I'm still looking at it. I'll leave it at that," Bochy said, regarding the top of the order.

Aoki, who has batted primarily leadoff during his three Major League seasons with Milwaukee and Kansas City, won't assume anything. For example, he said he hasn't approached Joe Panik, San Francisco's presumptive No. 2 hitter, to discuss subtleties such as working together on hit-and-run plays and potential stolen-base situations when Aoki's aboard.

Even if Aoki doesn't lead off, he and the Giants know his speed will be an asset from any spot in the order.

"I feel like I can be more aggressive and I'm always looking to take extra bags," said Aoki, who has 67 steals in 95 career tries.

Aoki's skillful running will be a necessity for San Francisco's offense, which is destined to be forced to manufacture runs. With three-run homers -- or, for that matter, any sort of homer -- bound to be rare occurrences, the Giants' attempts to maximize offense are more likely to succeed if Aoki maintains the ability to move easily into scoring position and dash home. That's why the Giants dipped into the free-agent market to sign Aoki to a one-year, $5.4 million contract with a $5.5 million option for 2016.

With the regular season fast approaching, Aoki shares the club's growing sense of anticipation.

"You look at how many [Spring Training] games are remaining," he said. "It's something that we're all getting excited about."

Aoki also sounded as if he'll await further opportunities to tease his teammates. Elaborating on his analysis of Hudson's baserunning, Aoki said, "It looked like his legs weren't moving. He can outpitch me but I feel like I can outrun him."

Chris Haft is a reporter for Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.