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Notes: Lewis maturing quickly

Notes: Lewis maturing quickly

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Offensive highlights abounded for the Giants on Tuesday. Barry Bonds had two hits and two RBIs, Todd Linden went 3-for-3 and Nate Schierholtz had a run-scoring triple among his two hits.

But one of the biggest hits of all was Fred Lewis' two-run single, which scooted through the left side of the infield in the fourth inning. It erased a 3-2 deficit and ignited a four-run outburst that helped the Giants subdue the Los Angeles Angels, 8-4.

Lewis' hit furthered his long-shot bid to make the Opening Day roster. More than likely, he'll return to Triple-A Fresno for more seasoning. But batting .455 (5-for-11) in a 13-game trial with San Francisco last season has Lewis believing that he can succeed in the Major Leagues.

"I know in my heart that I truly belong here, that I can play here," Lewis said.

Members of the Giants' braintrust agree. They still believe that Lewis, who excelled in basketball and football in high school and college, still needs at-bats to compensate for having played baseball full time for just five years. But they value Lewis' skills, even though he's a tad older than most prospects at age 26.

"Fred was a crude player. He had to work on some of the little things," said Dick Tidrow, the Giants' vice president of player personnel. "But he's always been able to stand on the plate and figure out a way to get the ball off of him."

Lewis has ascended steadily, spending most of 2004 at Class A and advancing the following season to Double-A before hitting .276 in 120 games at Triple-A Fresno last season. After hitting 18 home runs in his first four professional seasons, Lewis hit 12 in 2006, indicating that he's gaining strength as well as wisdom at the plate.

Now, said Lewis, "I can focus on trying to get to the next level -- and stay there."

Cain's content: Matt Cain didn't dwell on the three runs and four hits he allowed the Angels in 2 2/3 innings Tuesday. To Cain, "feel" was more important than results.

"I felt like I was throwing better-quality strikes today," said Cain, who owns a 15.43 ERA in two Cactus League outings. "The ball was down; every once in a while I'd get it up."

Cain's approach reflects his increased mound maturity.

"I'm starting to read hitters more, at an earlier time," he said. "Last year, somewhat, I was just going out there and throwing, instead of reading guys' swings and picking up their weaknesses."

The Giants' probable No. 2 starter admittted that he's not quite ready to prey upon hitters in this fashion.

"You reach back," Cain said, "and sometimes it's not there yet."

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Benitez stirs: Manager Bruce Bochy said that right-hander Armando Benitez threw 20 pitches to hitters in Minor League camp, but wasn't certain when the would-be closer might appear in an exhibition game.

The Giants began Spring Training concerned with the condition of Benitez's knees, but lately they've had to wait while he coped with the flu, along with many other Giants.

Hot hitters: Linden's 3-for-3 effort against the Angels lifted his Cactus League average to .571 (8-for-14). Jason Ellison, who entered Tuesday ranked third in the Cactus League with a .625 average, singled in the seventh inning and is now hitting .667. Both Ellison and Linden are out of Minor League options, meaning that both must be exposed to other teams through waivers before they can be sent to Triple-A. All indications are that Linden will be on the Opening Day roster while Ellison, who has made the team out of Spring Training in each of the last two seasons, is on the bubble.

Roster moves: The Giants optioned first baseman Travis Ishikawa to Triple-A Fresno and reassigned eight players to Minor League camp: catchers Steve Holm and Todd Jennings, outfielders Eddy Martinez-Esteve, Brian Horwitz, Ben Copeland and Clay Timpner, and right-handers Justin Hedrick and Oscar Montero. This left the Giants with 54 players in Major League camp.

Coming up: The Giants' busy Wednesday includes split-squad games against Seattle in Peoria and against Milwaukee in Phoenix. Matt Morris will oppose Mariners ace Felix Hernandez while heralded prospect Tim Lincecum makes his Cactus League debut against Milwaukee's Dave Bush.

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

{"content":["spring_training" ] }
{"content":["spring_training" ] }