Giants' roster takes shape with Huff

Giants' roster takes shape with Huff

SAN FRANCISCO -- As you run your fingers down the Giants' projected Opening Day roster, don't forget to cross them.

The impending signing of first baseman Aubrey Huff likely finishes the Giants' offseason efforts to upgrade the ballclub, though they still might pursue a veteran catcher to keep Buster Posey's shinguards warm and a starting pitcher to deepen the back end of the rotation.

Unless the Giants find a latter-day Johnny Bench to catch, they're essentially done trying to bolster the offense. San Francisco appears to have helped itself incrementally, though not dramatically, by adding free agents Huff and Mark DeRosa. Huff batted .304 with 32 home runs and 108 RBIs as recently as 2008 with Baltimore, and DeRosa hit a career-high 23 homers last year with Cleveland and St. Louis.

But the Giants will need widespread resiliency to sustain the progress they made last year, when they improved by 16 victories to finish 88-74 and lift the shroud of four consecutive losing seasons.

Health is an issue. Second baseman Freddy Sanchez (left knee, left shoulder), DeRosa (left wrist) and shortstop Edgar Renteria (both shoulders, right elbow) are striving to recover from injuries.

Additionally, several Giants must rebound from subpar seasons. Renteria hit a career-low .250. Huff also recorded his lowest batting average (.241) and hit 15 homers, less than half of what he amassed the previous season. Center fielder Aaron Rowand hit .261, his lowest average since he hit .258 in 2002, his first full Major League season. During his injury-shortened stint of 25 games with the Giants last year, Sanchez compiled on-base and slugging percentages of .295 and .324, respectively. By comparison, he owns a career on-base average of .334 and a slugging percentage of .417.

Your 2010 Giants?
A look at a possible Opening Day lineup for the Giants, minus pitcher.
  Player Position
1. Aaron Rowand CF
2. Mark DeRosa LF
3. Freddy Sanchez 2B
4. Pablo Sandoval 3B
5. Aubrey Huff 1B
6. Edgar Renteria SS
7. Nate Schierholtz RF
8. Buster Posey C
The lone "youngsters" in this veteran-laden lineup will have something to prove. For now, Posey, who turns 23 on March 27 and has generated considerable hype while playing 132 professional regular-season games, will be the Opening Day catcher. Nate Schierholtz, who turns 26 on Feb. 15, is probably the leading right-field candidate. Schierholtz impressed management by hitting .324 in 19 games for Gigantes de Carolina in the Puerto Rican Winter League, but still must show that the .164 average he posted in his final 29 games last season was an aberration.

With Huff's arrival, Pablo Sandoval is destined to settle at third base while DeRosa occupies left field. Against left-handed pitchers, the left-handed-batting Huff probably will sit more often than not. In that event, Sandoval could move to first base while Juan Uribe -- now destined to fill the super-utility role the Giants envisioned for him -- plays third. Or DeRosa could be the right-handed-batting platoon first baseman, with Sandoval remaining at third base and a fresh reserve moving to left field from the bench.

The batting order could change frequently. As general manager Brian Sabean suggested last week, Rowand might indeed begin the season as the leadoff hitter. Manager Bruce Bochy likes Sanchez in the No. 2 spot but knows that the 2006 National League batting champion also has the aptitude to hit third. If Sanchez drops to third, DeRosa could fill the No. 2 hole, a role he has handled in 139 career games.

Though Sandoval has been anointed as the cleanup hitter, he could bat third under certain circumstances. Huff, who has spent almost his entire career in the 3-4-5 neighborhood, looks like a No. 5 hitter as a Giant. Posey, Renteria and Schierholtz will complete the order, not necessarily in that sequence.

Competition for reserve spots will be fierce in Spring Training. Eugenio Velez and Andres Torres, who not long ago were expected to compete for or share playing time in left field, will be handy to bring off the bench, given their speed and switch-hitting ability. Fred Lewis and John Bowker ostensibly are part of the outfield mix. But the Giants may try to trade Lewis, and Bowker still has a Minor League option remaining.

First baseman Travis Ishikawa probably still has a place on the roster despite Huff's presence. Bochy has said that he might experiment with Ishikawa in left field during Spring Training. That would give Bochy more flexibility and Ishikawa more job security and maybe even playing time.

Given DeRosa's and Uribe's versatility and Velez's ability to play second base, the Giants might not need to keep an additional utility infielder. They can choose from among Kevin Frandsen, Emmanuel Burriss and Ryan Rohlinger if they elect to add one.

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