Even with DH available, Giants sit Pat Burrell

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The Giants have Aubrey Huff in the DH spot tonight, with Pablo Sandoval at first and Miguel Tejada at third base.  Cody Ross, as usual, is playing left field, so Pat Burrell finds himself on the bench yet again.

Burrell is only getting occasional starts against left-handers at the moment.  And that does make some sense: the Giants are certainly better off defensively with Ross in left field and Nate Schierholtz in right, plus Burrell has hit lefties quite a bit better than righties over the course of his career.

This year, though, Burrell is hitting just .167/.259/.250 in 48 at-bats against lefties, compared to .255/.383/.489 in 94 at-bats against righties.

And with the DH spot available, playing Burrell should be a no-brainer for this Giants team that has struggled to score runs all year.  It’s hard to see why the team is still spending a roster spot on him if it can’t use him now.  It’s certainly not for his skills as a pinch-hitter (he’s 2-for-15 this year, and he has a .200 average lifetime as a pinch-hitter).  Unless he gets hot, there’s a good chance he’ll be let go once Brandon Belt is ready to return from a hairline fracture in his wrist.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉