Sweeney, others know future with Giants is out of their control - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Sweeney, others know future with Giants is out of their control

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Posted: Monday, March 26, 2007 3:01 am | Updated: 5:57 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Mark Sweeney hit his first home run of spring training and added a double during an impressive day.

Not a bad statement for San Francisco's left-handed pinch-hitter, who is batting only .194 this spring and is in danger of not making the team. Those results from Saturday's Cactus League game in Scottsdale against the Chicago Cubs might not mean much.

The 25th and final Giants roster spot will go to either Sweeney, outfielder Jason Ellison or first baseman Lance Niekro — and Sweeney is likely one of the odd men out barring injury. He's been in this business long enough to understand.

"Come to the field and get ready," Sweeney said afterward. "That's the only thing I can control. I'm not sitting in that room. I can go to the cages and get stronger."

There is interest from other teams in Ellison, who is 28, an athletic outfielder and a threat on the bases with his speed. Plus, new center fielder Dave Roberts has struggled with injuries in recent seasons — making Ellison's ability to play anywhere in the outfield another asset for him.

"There's a bunch of decisions to be made," Ellison said Sunday. "It's going to come down to what they think they need. It's not going to come down to what you did in spring training. You could have a need there for any one of us. It's up in the air. We'll see."

Giants general manager Brian Sabean is leaving many tough roster decisions mostly up to manager Bruce Bochy, based on the skipper's needs.

Ellison and Niekro are out of minor league options. The 28-year-old Niekro has had a solid spring and could be considered based on the fact that first baseman Rich Aurilia is nursing a strained right groin — though the injury isn't considered serious.

Niekro, who had a strong rookie season in 2005 before playing in only 66 major league games last year, has done everything to earn himself a big league job somewhere. He hopes that's with the Giants, but has been hearing rumors for more than a year that he's likely on his way out.

There are many factors in the Giants' tough choices in the coming days. And with Bochy being out of town starting Sunday night for a few days to attend his mother's funeral in Florida, they might come down to the wire.

Ryan Klesko, the other lefty off the bench who, like Sweeney, plays first base, has an injury history and is coming off shoulder surgery. The Giants acquired Klesko and Roberts after they spent last season with the two-time defending NL West champion San Diego Padres, who allowed Bochy to leave and become San Francisco's new skipper.

The 35-year-old Klesko appeared in only six games in 2006 after surgery on his left shoulder in April, but Bochy liked the way he was hitting late in the year. He was bothered by soreness in his throwing shoulder late in spring training and started the season on the disabled list. He had three hits with a double and two RBIs in four at-bats.

It was Sweeney whom slugger Barry Bonds reportedly blamed following a failed amphetamines test in 2006, attributing the result to something he got from Sweeney's locker. Bonds publicly apologized and the two apparently haven't had any issues this spring.

While Sweeney would prefer to stay with the Giants for a second season, he believes he will get his shot somewhere. The New York Mets are in the market for a left-handed bat off the bench.

"Without sounding cocky, I know what I can do," said Sweeney, a career journeyman. "Like I said before, I know I can help somebody. The decision's theirs. I'm trying to get better."

Last year was the first time Sweeney had a position locked up out of spring camp — so this is more what he's used to.

"It's not my job to have a gut feeling," Sweeney said. "That's over-thinking."

Two of the seven bullpen spots also are up in the air, assuming the club doesn't trade embattled closer Armando Benitez — with Jonathan Sanchez, Scott Munter and Brad Hennessey being the leaders.

San Francisco hinted early in the spring that it would keep Sanchez in a long relief role if he didn't win the fifth starter job, which will go to Russ Ortiz. But the Giants might instead send him to Triple-A Fresno to keep the left-hander as a starter.

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