It's a difficult situation, but it could be hardest on Ellison, 28, who has made the team in each of the previous two springs. He has done all he can to prove himself, leading the Cactus League with a .551 on-base percentage and ranking third with a .476 average entering Wednesday."I can relate to Ellison, because I've been through his situation before, where you don't have options and he's playing his butt off," said Sweeney, 37, who's entering his 13th season. "... I mean, I had a manager tell me, 'You made the team, but I can't take you.'" Ellison's trying to remain optimistic in the face of the unknown.
"I think I've worked hard my whole career," said Ellison, "and I think I deserve something good to happen."Ellison pointed out that he thrives when he plays every day or even just semi-regularly. He hit a credible .264 in 131 games for the Giants in 2005, and posted a .406 mark in 46 games last season at Fresno when he wasn't coming off the bench for San Francisco (.222 in 84 games). It's said of players such as Ellison and Niekro that they're auditioning for all 29 teams, since their lack of Minor League options could prevent their current club from retaining them.
Asked if he feels that way, Ellison said, "I definitely do. Nobody's given me insight on what's happening here, so obviously you have to think like that."But thinking too much can drive a player nuts. "Generally speaking, if you go home at night and think about it, it's on your mind non-stop," Sweeney said. Therefore, Sweeney tries not to dwell on his status. "Nothing changes for me," he said. "I have to do my stuff to get myself ready. My experience probably comes into that. I've been through all that before -- many, many times." And many, many other players endure such mini-dramas, since every team has similar groups of capable veterans or former prospects out of options who are striving for jobs. "It's the good, bad and ugly of baseball," Sweeney said.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.