Freddy Sanchez said throughout the offseason that he was optimistic about recovering from June shoulder surgery in time for Opening Day, but like so many “optimistic” updates from teams and players recently that’s now looking like wishful thinking.
Sanchez missed the final three-plus months of last season and has yet to play second base this spring, leading manager Bruce Bochy to admit yesterday that his odds of being in the Opening Day lineup aren’t good.
“We’re down to two weeks here and he hasn’t gotten out there yet,” Bochy told Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News. “We’re still optimistic that we will get him out there, but each day that goes by the possibility grows a little bit that he’s not going to be ready.”
“We’re still optimistic” has become the official spring training injury mantra across baseball.
Emmanuel Burriss, Ryan Theriot, and Mike Fontenot are options to replace Sanchez at second base. Sanchez has missed half of the Giants’ games since they acquired him from the Pirates in mid-2009, yet general manager Brian Sabean extended his contract twice during that time.
The wave of defensive shifts we’ve seen over the past few years has led to a lot of armchair hitting coaches demanding that players bunt to beat it. This is easier said than done, however.
The shift happens because certain hitters tend to pull the ball. Certain hitters tend to pull the ball because pulling the ball is what happens when one gets a strong, quick swing on a pitch one identifies early and which one endeavors to send as far away from home plate as possible. Which is to say that pulling is a skill that is good to have and which is strongly selected for among hitters.
In light of that, “why not just bunt to beat the shift” takes are kind of lazy. Bunting is hard! And it is not a thing guys who get shifted a lot are good at. Most of the time asking a player to do a thing he is not well-equipped to do is a bad idea. Indeed, a hitter voluntarily going away from his strength is something the defense would much prefer.
Most of the time anyway.
Last night Matt Carpenter made those armchair hitting coaches happy by laying down a bunt to beat the shift. And he laid it down so well that he ended up with a standup double:
One batter later Carpenter scored on a Starlin Castro error.
The shift giveth and the shift taketh away.