SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Mark Sweeney needed a day like this. He might need a few more to make the Giants' Opening Day roster. Batting .147 (5-for-34) entering Saturday, Sweeney doubled in the sixth inning and delivered a two-run homer in the eighth in the Giants' 3-2 exhibition loss to the Chicago Cubs. He thus made up some ground between himself and his two apparent rivals for the last roster spot -- Jason Ellison (.438 batting average) and Lance Niekro (.324). Sweeney's value as a player extends beyond his prowess off the bench, which has made him history's fifth-most prolific pinch-hitter (tied with Dave Hansen). The first baseman-outfielder is not just an ordinary 37-year-old trying to hang on for a 13th Major League season. He's one of the most popular figures in the clubhouse, sharing a rapport with rookies and veterans alike.
Sweeney didn't get carried away with his resurgence at the plate. "I've felt good before," he said. "Swinging out of the strike zone's not good and I've done that a lot." Although Sweeney sounded grim, he was anything but down. "Without sounding cocky," he said, "I know what I can do." Accustomed to competing for roster vacancies, Sweeney wouldn't hazard a guess on what his immediate future holds. "It's not my job to have a gut feeling," he told reporters. "That's overthinking. That's for you guys to do." In mourning: Melrose Bochy, manager Bruce Bochy's mother, died Friday night in Florida after a long illness. She was 78. Services will be held Wednesday. Bruce Bochy said that he'll leave the team after Sunday's exhibition against San Diego to join his family. Bench coach Ron Wotus will manage the team in Bochy's absence. Zito, Benitez in control: Although Barry Zito absorbed the decision in the Giants' 11th exhibition loss in 14 games, he had no complaints about his four-inning outing. Working on three days' rest, one fewer than usual, to stay on schedule for his Opening Day start April 3 against San Diego, Zito allowed two hits, including Aramis Ramirez's homer leading off the second inning. Zito also issued one walk, bringing his Cactus League total to six over 17 innings. That's a more favorable ratio than he maintained last season, when he walked 99 in 221 innings. "When I'm aggressive in the zone, I tend to have more dominant games," said Zito, who threw 41 strikes in 61 pitches. "When I'm falling behind and nitpicking, the games go the wrong way for me. The key for me is to be aggressive at all times, no matter if you're getting hit, because the other team can sniff out when you're starting to let down and be tentative."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.