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Notes: Cortes keeps competing

Notes: Cortes keeps competing

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TEMPE, Ariz. -- Every team has a David Cortes in camp. That's not the same as saying he's ordinary.

Cortes is a member of the species known as "longshot." He's 33, so he lacks the promise of youth. As a non-roster invitee, his status is minimal. All he has going for him is that he's pitching better than most Giants relievers.

Cortes yielded a ninth-inning run and absorbed the decision in the Giants' 4-3 loss Wednesday to the Angels, but he preceded that with four shutout one-inning appearances.

Even if Cortes keeps manufacturing zeroes, he'll have trouble forcing his way into the season-opening bullpen. Brian Wilson, Kevin Correia and Steve Kline are virtually assured of jobs. So are Armando Benitez and Brad Hennessey, unless they're traded. Vinnie Chulk (1.59 ERA), who has no Minor League options remaining, has a clear path to some sort of role. This leaves Cortes competing with Scott Munter, Billy Sadler, Jack Taschner and Jonathan Sanchez (who might open the season as a starter in Triple-A) for the final bullpen spot.

Except Cortes doesn't view the issue that way.

"I'm not competing with anybody; I'm competing with myself right now," the right-hander said. "I want to do my best."

At the very least, Cortes has established himself as a candidate for promotion from Triple-A Fresno when the Giants need a fresh reliever.

"If they decide that I'm going down, I'll get my stuff, go to the [Minor League] side and try to do my best to get back up," Cortes said. "I know I can pitch. But I want to let them make the decision. I don't want to get ahead of myself."

A skeptic would point out that Cortes doesn't miss many bats. He allowed 35 hits and struck out 14 in 29 1/3 innings last season with Colorado. Left-handed batters own a career .303 average off him.

But other statistics favor Cortes. In 80 appearances with the pitching-poor Rockies from 2005-06, he was 5-1 with a 4.17 ERA. At Coors Field -- every pitcher's nightmare -- Cortes is 5-0 with a respectable 4.25 ERA lifetime.

Although he has worked primarily in middle and setup relief, Cortes proved he can perform under pressure in last year's World Baseball Classic, when he coaxed Vernon Wells' game-ending, double-play grounder to seal Mexico's 2-1 victory over the United States.

"One of the first things I said to him was, 'I'm glad you're over here,'" Giants first baseman Mark Sweeney said. "I know he has Major League stuff. He would definitely help us. It's a matter of how many spots are available."

Aurilia migrates: Rich Aurilia said that he expects to make his first Cactus League appearance at third base Thursday against Kansas City. Aurilia, who's slated to be the Giants' primary first baseman and fill in around the infield, has played 39 innings at first base and five at shortstop this spring.

"I've moved around so much the last couple of years, they're all comfortable now," Aurilia said.

Aurilia said that he hasn't picked up the tendency to gab with opponents, as some first basemen do.

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"I'm no Sean Casey," Aurilia said, citing the Major Leagues' leading chatterbox. "I'm no 'Mayor.' I'm a pretty personable guy, but I'm not going to go out of my way to have a full-blown conversation."

Klesko's back: Ryan Klesko, sidelined since he strained a muscle in his left side last Monday, returned to action Wednesday and went 1-for-2 with a ninth-inning RBI single. Manager Bruce Bochy said that Klesko probably would return to first base or the outfield in Thursday night's game against Seattle.

Klesko entered the game in mildly odd fashion, replacing Barry Bonds as a pinch-runner.

"It wasn't a first, but it was the first time in a few years," Klesko said, adding that during his early years with the Atlanta Braves he often ran for Fred McGriff.

Briefly: Bonds went 0-for-2 as the designated hitter with a first-inning flyout, a third-inning strikeout and a fifth-inning walk. He's scheduled to DH again Thursday against Kansas City. ... Would-be closer Wilson pitched a perfect eighth inning. Opponents are batting .182 against him. ... X-rays on Taschner's bruised left ankle were negative. The left-hander was injured when the barrel of Hiram Bocachica's shattered bat struck him Tuesday night. ... Catcher Bengie Molina didn't seem too thrilled about the double-steal that his brother, Jose Molina, executed with Howie Kendrick in the fourth inning. As Bengie Molina threw low to second base, Jose Molina took second and Kendrick scored. Asked if he and his brother bantered about the play, Bengie Molina said, "Not at all. ... I had a bad release. I had a bad throw."

Coming up: The Giants' final split-squad games of the season will be day-night affairs. They'll visit Kansas City in Surprise on Thursday afternoon, with Barry Zito opposing Royals left-hander Jorge De La Rosa. Sanchez will start the evening game against Seattle's Jeff Weaver in Peoria.

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

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