Velez brings speed to bases, fielding
Giants infielder building a case for role as super-utilityman
MESA, Ariz. -- The most intriguing player in camp gave the Giants more to contemplate.Eugenio Velez left the Giants' 8-6 exhibition victory over the Chicago Cubs before the bottom of the fifth inning Sunday, but he put in a full afternoon of work. Velez displayed the speed and generated the excitement that San Francisco's offense sorely needs. He stole three bases while going 1-for-3 with a walk, but those figures conveyed only part of what he provided. While stealing his final base, in the fifth inning, Velez prompted catcher Geovany Soto's throwing error. That enabled Velez to advance to third and open the scoring in a five-run uprising. Later in the fifth, after the Giants batted around, Velez ended the inning by nearly beating out a routine grounder to second base. "He floats," Giants center fielder Aaron Rowand said, describing Velez's sprinting skill. "It doesn't even look like his feet touch the ground." Velez roamed new ground at HoHoKam Park -- third base, after starting three previous exhibitions at second base. This underscored manager Bruce Bochy's intent to make Velez a super-utilityman in the mold of the Los Angeles Angels' Chone Figgins. "You have to be ready," Velez said of his carousel ride around the diamond. Although Velez committed a throwing error, he inspired right-hander Matt Cain to make a more ambitious comparison than the one to Figgins. "He reminds me of Jose Reyes, the way they run and the way they get after it," said Cain, who pitched three shutout innings. "Both switch-hit and have cannons for arms." Velez's performance -- which wasn't an aberration, since he's hitting .429 (6-for-14) with six runs and five steals -- could deepen the Giants' thinking about their infield. With shortstop Omar Vizquel sidelined for four to six weeks after undergoing arthroscopic left knee surgery, the projected starters at the positions that Velez can play are second baseman Ray Durham, shortstop Kevin Frandsen and third baseman Rich Aurilia. Before Vizquel's injury materialized, Velez appeared likely to begin the season with Triple-A Fresno.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.