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Giants facing tough infield choices

Giants facing tough infield choices

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants want to name a lineup by early next week, and Dan Ortmeier wants to influence their decision.

Manager Bruce Bochy said Wednesday that he hopes to announce starters at the unsettled infield corners by or shortly after next Tuesday, when the Giants face the Chicago Cubs in their final Arizona exhibition. This would enable the regulars to play together and gain familiarity with each other during the exhibitions March 26 at Fresno and March 27-30 in the Bay Area.

"When we head to Fresno, I think at that point we'll huddle up and decide which way we want to go everywhere on the infield," Bochy said.

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The Giants have seemed inclined to make Rich Aurilia their Opening Day first baseman, although he was scratched from his scheduled start at third base Wednesday with tendinitis in his right elbow. Aurilia is likely to serve as designated hitter Thursday against the Los Angeles Angels. Once Aurilia makes his anticipated return to the lineup Friday, "Richie's going to play a little more first," general manager Brian Sabean said.

Ortmeier, the presumptive first baseman before camp opened, intends to launch a late rally. Preoccupied by the burdens of switch-hitting and learning the subtleties of his position after spending most of his career in the outfield, he entered Wednesday with a .178 average, no home runs and one RBI in 45 at-bats. But Ortmeier went 2-for-4, lining a triple and an RBI single in his first two at-bats during the Giants' 4-2 exhibition loss to the Cubs.

"My mind-set is I want to finish spring strong and get some momentum going into the regular season," Ortmeier said. "I'm choosing not to get frustrated. You take it and learn from it, and any time you struggle or go through a hard time, it makes you a better player and a better man."

Ortmeier spent Tuesday's off-day participating in a Minor League intrasquad game in an attempt to sharpen his swing. "I'm five at-bats closer," he said, brimming with optimism.

Bochy acknowledged that there's "not a lot of time" for Ortmeier to reassert himself, but didn't rule out that prospect.

"He has to relax and stop pressing," Bochy said. "We know a lot has been on his plate. He wants to do well, so he's taking it hard, the fact that he hasn't been swinging the bat as well as he can. But I think he feels good the last couple of days."

Should Ortmeier claim first base, the Giants would select their third baseman from an array including Aurilia, Kevin Frandsen and Eugenio Velez.

"We have some movable parts," Bochy said. "It's nice to have that flexibility. We'll be able to adjust if we have to."

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Frandsen, however, is enduring a setback with left Achilles tendinitis that will sideline him from three to four days. Already trailing Ray Durham, who's batting .436, in the competition at second base, Frandsen, who's hitting .235, probably will spend most of his time at third when he returns. Bochy acknowledged that Frandsen's injury will impede his chances of claiming an everyday role: "It probably makes it a little more difficult, because he's behind right now."

Frandsen said that his injury began bothering him shortly after the Cactus League season began.

"It's unfortunate," he said. "I busted my butt all offseason like everyone else does. It just happens, I guess."

A trade for a third baseman remains possible. The Giants have been said all spring to be eyeing third basemen Joe Crede of the Chicago White Sox and Brandon Inge of Detroit. Philadelphia's Wes Helms also entered the rumor mill recently. Sabean said he had some "good conversations" with clubs Tuesday and Wednesday. Asked about the topics of discussion, Sabean said, "A little bit of everything. Third base was in the conversation."

The Giants made less dramatic moves to trim their spring roster to 35. They optioned outfielder Nate Schierholtz, infielder Travis Denker, first baseman Travis Ishikawa and right-hander Billy Sadler to Triple-A Fresno and reassigned infielders Emmanuel Burriss and Ivan Ochoa and right-hander Victor Santos to Minor League camp.

The Giants also took the unusual step, for this juncture of Spring Training, of adding a player from Minor League camp as a non-roster invitee: third baseman Ryan Rohlinger, who impressed management with his late-inning hitting in scattered games. Entering Wednesday, Rohlinger was 4-for-10 with a grand slam and seven RBIs. Bochy explained that the injuries to Aurilia and Frandsen partly accounted for Rohlinger's arrival.

Among the players cut, the only one who had a legitimate shot to make the Opening Day roster was Schierholtz. But with a Minor League option remaining, Schierholtz appeared destined to be pushed aside by Rajai Davis and Fred Lewis, who are out of options and can't be sent to the Minors without being offered to other teams via waivers.

"He's a victim of the rule, really," Sabean said of Schierholtz. "It's a matter of keeping our inventory."

Schierholtz ranked second on the team with nine RBIs but hit only .229 in 18 games.

"Nate even said he's a little disappointed in his spring," Bochy said. "He thought he was pressing a little bit. Hopefully this will relax him and get him on track."

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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