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Notes: Ortiz extends himself

Notes: Ortiz nears rotation spot

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Russ Ortiz didn't just raise the bar for Giants pitchers. He might have put it out of immediate reach, unless his counterparts hasten their progress.

No Giants starter had pitched more than four innings until Tuesday, when Ortiz worked six in San Francisco's 4-3 exhibition loss to the Texas Rangers. Ortiz retired the first nine hitters he faced and blanked Texas for four innings before Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler homered in the fifth and sixth, respectively.

After completing the fifth inning, Ortiz figured that the clubhouse was his next stop. Pitching coach Dave Righetti had other plans for him. "I was a little surprised when he said, 'Give me one more,' " said Ortiz, who allowed four hits, walked one and struck out six. "But I felt good."

Ortiz indeed looked sharp from start to finish. "Every pitch," he said, "Locking in and trusting everything. It was nice to throw offspeed pitches behind on the count."

Even the homers didn't besmirch Ortiz's performance. Cruz's was obviously windblown and aided by the thin Arizona air. "Jason was saying, 'I came in on it,' " Ortiz joked, referring to right fielder Jason Ellison. Ortiz admitted that Kinsler's homer, a two-out drive to left-center field off a hanging slider, was legitimate.

Ortiz's excellent spring has been legitimate, too, as he has virtually clinched a spot in the Giants' rotation. "He has thrown well from day one," manager Bruce Bochy said of Ortiz, who has allowed 13 hits in 18 innings.

Barry Zito provided another source of encouragement by pitching seven innings in a Minor League exhibition against the Los Angeles Angels' Class A Rancho Cucamonga club. The Opening Day starter allowed four hits and three runs (one earned) while walking three and striking out six. "It was a good day for the rotation," Bochy said.

Bonds homers: Barry Bonds continued his proficient hitting by lashing a sixth-inning leadoff homer off Texas right-hander Akinori Otsuka. It was Bonds' fifth homer in 26 Cactus League at-bats. Many of the 7,152 Surprise Stadium patrons applauded Bonds as he left the dugout for the clubhouse shortly afterward, contrasting with the unfriendly reception he typically receives.

Bonds served as the Giants' designated hitter for perhaps the final time this spring. He has played only 15 innings in left field, where Bochy said he would appear more frequently beginning with Thursday's exhibition against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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Bonds was on deck when Rangers reliever Eric Gagne, making his first Major League appearance since last June, ended the fifth inning. Most onlookers anticipated a renewal of the Bonds-Gagne matchups that enlivened Giants-Dodgers games of recent vintage, but such wasn't the case.

"It's too early in the spring to face him," said Gagne, who's trying to overcome elbow and back injuries. "You see what he did in his last at-bat? I don't need to face him. I've got enough to work on."

Resurgent Frandsen: Infielder Kevin Frandsen emerged from his offensive funk by going 3-for-4 with a fifth-inning homer off Gagne.

Frandsen, who grew up in San Jose rooting for the Giants, jokingly referred to Gagne's Dodgers background to explain his long ball. "I'm a Dodger hater," Frandsen said. "... He's still out there in blue. Long hair and goatee."

Said Gagne of the 1-2 pitch Frandsen yanked out to left field, "Good curve. Wrong time."

It was the right time for Frandsen, who entered the game batting .205. Even against Gagne, Frandsen said he missed chances to make solid contact before homering.

"That's the thing I've been doing a lot lately," Frandsen said. "Today I finally got the bat head there and started driving balls."

Rumor logic: Don't get too worked up over recent speculation that the Cincinnati Reds have joined the list of potential suitors for Armando Benitez.

The Reds have received encouraging performances from a different right-hander striving to recover from injuries: Dustin Hermanson, whom they signed to a Minor League contract on March 1. Hermanson didn't give up a hit in his first three appearances, spanning three innings, entering Tuesday. Hermanson probably will be Cincinnati's closer if he can continue to avoid back trouble. The Reds also would be hard-pressed to absorb Benitez's $7.6 million salary, although the Giants likely would assume part of his wages in any deal involving the right-hander.

Aurilia scratched: Rich Aurilia was scratched from Tuesday's lineup after he was involved in a minor automobile accident on Scottsdale Road. Aurilia was unharmed, but the Giants still elected to rest him for precautionary reasons. He's expected to play Wednesday against the Chicago White Sox.

Coming up: The Giants make their third and final visit to Tucson on Wednesday to face the White Sox. It'll be the first Cactus League meeting between the teams. Aurilia, Dave Roberts, Randy Winn and Ray Durham are expected to be among the veterans on the trip. Matt Cain (1-1) will start for the Giants against Javier Vazquez (0-2).

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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