Thursday, March 25, 2010
Spring RBI leader still fighting for job
Do you have any idea who's driven home the most runs this month? As Seth Livingstone writes, today (or at least this morning) the answer was San Francisco's John Bowker, who drove in all seven runs in the Giants' Wednesday game against the Royals. Will Bowker have a job with the Giants next month, though? Seems like sort of a long shot:
Bowker, 26, leads the majors with 18 RBI this spring. He has four homers and raised his average from .194 to .288, thanks in part to his solo homer against Kyle Farnsworth and a sixth-inning grand slam against Brad Thompson.
But he's not guaranteed a spot on the Giants' roster, let alone in their lineup.
This spring, Bowker is battling Nate Schierholtz for playing time in right field. He might also play first base if the Giants decide to keep him on the roster.
"You like the way the ball jumps off his bat, the power, but there are other things you do have to consider," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We know Johnny can hit. He's a great bat. It's just a matter of what's going to fit the best for this ballclub."
To date, Bowker's claim to fame is that he's the only Giants player to homer in his first two major league games. That happened in 2008 when he batted .255 with 10 homers in 111 games for San Francisco, which drafted him in the third round in 2004.
Although he batted .342 with 31 homers for Class AAA Fresno last year, he never got it going at the major-league level, hitting .194 with two homers in 31 games.
Bowker got a real shot in 2008, 350 plate appearances with the big club, and didn't hit (.255/.300/.408).
Hey, it happens. Bowker's put in one full season in Double-A and one full season in Triple-A, and in both seasons he terrorized the enemy pitchers.
OK, so terrorized is a gross exaggeration. I doubt if Pacific Coast League pitchers were spreading The Legend of John Bowker from New Orleans and Memphis to Portland and Tacoma last summer. But he was good, and at 25 he wasn't exactly victimizing a series of fresh-faced kiddies. Sure, Fresno's a hitter's park in a hitter's league, but it was an impressive season.
Where do you play him, though? When Bochy mentions those "other things you do have to consider," he's talking about Bowker's defense, which -- fairly or not -- is legendarily awful.
In right field, he's competing with Schierholtz, who's 1) is almost exactly as good a hitter as Bowker, and 2) is clearly a better outfielder. At first base, Aubrey Huff is roughly the same hitter and has more experience at the position. The Giants have engaged Mark DeRosa to play left field.
And you can forget about a platoon; Bowker bats left-handed, and so do Schierholtz, Huff, and Travis Ishikawa. A platoon in left field could be fairly productive, but the Giants aren't paying DeRosa $6 million this season to start just once or twice per week.
Bowker's obviously the odd man out. He probably deserves another extended shot, like the one he got (but failed) two years ago. But he probably won't get it until somebody gets hurt or the Giants trade him to an American League team looking for a cheap DH.