Notes: Linden's lefty swing looks good

Notes: Linden's lefty swing looks good

PHOENIX -- The new Todd Linden was in full bloom Saturday at Maryvale Baseball Park, which had much to do with the Giants' 12-8 exhibition victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Linden drove in three runs with a pair of two-out singles, displaying the compact left-handed swing many thought he lacked. He also started in center field, a spot he's trying for the first time as a professional.

Linden has never opened the season with San Francisco, despite spending parts of the last four seasons in the Major Leagues. This year, however, he believes that he'll be with the Giants on April 3 when they christen 2007 against San Diego at AT&T Park.

"I feel like things are kind of falling into place," he said.

In fact, manager Bruce Bochy has plans for Linden. Not only is Linden expected to be the primary backup in the corner outfield spots, but Bochy said that the 26-year-old also will play center when Dave Roberts rests against certain left-handers.

"That's why it's important that he gets some playing time in center," Bochy said of Linden, who recorded two putouts easily.

Linden looked as comfortable at the plate as he did afield. The switch-hitter's 3-for-3 afternoon included a run-scoring hit off Ben Sheets in the first inning and a two-run single off Grant Balfour in the third inning that launched the Giants' comeback from a 7-2 deficit.

Linden owned a .192 career average in the Majors batting left-handed entering 2006 but hit .302 (16-for-53) off right-handers last season. But he couldn't shake the stigma of his weakness.

"Everybody likes to talk about my left-handed swing and how it's not up to speed. I disagree," he said. "I'm not worried about it. I know I can improve on it. I know I can shorten it up and be more successful."

Linden thinks that playing for a new manager will especially help him. Felipe Alou, Bochy's predecessor, was frequently skeptical about Linden's left-handed stroke.

"That's one of the nice things about having a fresh set of eyes in here," Linden said. "Other people may have already come to conclusions about what I can and can't do. It's always tough to change those ideas. So, get a new look, a new bunch of guys in here and a new manager, hopefully it'll be a different outcome."

Avenging Friday: The Giants recovered from Friday's 21-2 loss to Milwaukee by improving to 2-1 in Cactus League play. Jason Ellison matched Linden's three RBIs, and Pedro Feliz demonstrated his intent to become a more disciplined hitter by driving in runs with a first-inning double and a fourth-inning single -- both to right field.

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After Ellison's bases-loaded walk in the fourth inning broke a 7-7 tie, the Giants scored in each of the final four innings. Ellison's sixth-inning infield single scored Kevin Frandsen, Luis Figueroa lined an RBI single in the seventh, Travis Ishikawa lashed a ground-rule double and scored in the eighth and Nate Schierholtz added a run-scoring single in the ninth.

Brian Wilson, the would-be closer, escaped a second-and-third, one-out jam in the sixth by striking out Corey Hart and retiring Laynce Nix on a grounder.

"He's got the stuff to get out of it, and he did," Bochy said.

Morose Morris: Matt Morris felt like a pitcher's supposed to feel after allowing seven runs and five hits while walking four in 1 2/3 innings -- even though his performance meant virtually nothing.

"This is the last thing I was expecting," Morris said. "I know it doesn't count ... but I went out there today to make some pitches and get some results and I didn't do either."

Morris, who complained that he kept "pulling" his deliveries across home plate and not extending his arm sufficiently, threw 56 pitches, an unusually high number for this juncture of the spring. Informed by Dave Righetti that he had thrown 34 pitches in the first inning, Morris told the pitching coach, "I can't end on that."

Absences, moves: Left fielder Barry Bonds joined the growing ranks of Giants ordered to stay home with the flu. Other ill players excused included first baseman Lance Niekro, catcher Todd Jennings, infielder Scott McClain and, for the second time this spring, second baseman Ray Durham.

With so many players sick or only starting to recover, San Francisco canceled Monday's "B" game against Oakland, which right-hander Tim Lincecum -- one of the flu-ridden Giants -- would have started. Bochy said that the A's also have been hit hard by illness.

One player whose condition improved was catcher Eliezer Alfonzo (left oblique), who swung off a tee for the first time since being injured last week.

The Giants trimmed their spring roster to 63 by jettisoning four players. They optioned right-hander Kelyn Acosta to Double-A Connecticut and right-hander Merkin Valdez, who's sidelined by Tommy John elbow surgery, to Triple-A Fresno. They also reassigned right-hander Carlos Hines and infielder Julio Cordido to Minor League camp.

Great gate: The Giants announced that they expect to sell more than 80,000 individual game tickets during the first week that they're available to the public, more than double the 39,000 they sold during the same period in 2005. This puts the Giants on pace to sell more than 3 million tickets before Opening Day, which would make them the fourth club to maintain that streak for at least eight consecutive years.

Coming up: Left-hander Noah Lowry is scheduled to make his first Cactus League start Sunday as the Giants entertain Seattle. Right-hander Jeff Weaver will start for the Mariners.

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