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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, January 23, 2010

MLB: Some things never change for the Giants

By Andrew Baggarly
San Jose Mercury News

For all their offseason remodeling, the Giants finished the room by putting two familiar pieces in old spots: Bengie Molina behind the plate and Freddy Sanchez in the trainer’s room.

On a conference call Friday to reintroduce Molina, who signed a one-year, $4.5 million contract, Giants officials publicly admitted what manager Bruce Bochy had casually mentioned on radio station KNBR a day earlier — that Sanchez underwent left-shoulder surgery Dec. 23 and might not be ready to start the season.
The three-time All-Star second baseman felt recurring soreness when he began swinging a bat in mid-December — the same issue that conspired with an injured left knee to limit him to 25 of 61 games after July 29, when the club acquired him from the Pittsburgh Pirates for pitching prospect Tim Alderson.
Exploratory surgery discovered a torn labrum and arthritic AC joint, both of which were repaired. Typical recovery time is 10-12 weeks, according to Giants head trainer Dave Groeschner.
Opening day is “certainly a possibility,” for Sanchez, said Groeschner, “but it may not happen, either.”
Juan Uribe would start at second base if Sanchez isn’t ready, Bochy said. General manager Brian Sabean said the club’s motivation to re-sign Uribe was heightened by Sanchez’s uncertain status.
This makes two times in five months the Giants medical staff has placed bets on Sanchez and lost. At the time of the trade, they knew Sanchez needed left-knee surgery but incorrectly determined that they could keep him on the field. Sanchez had the knee cleaned up at the end of September.
And now comes the news that he had shoulder surgery less than eight weeks after the Giants gave him a two-year, $12 million contract. Sanchez had taken another physical before the Oct. 30 signing.
But Sabean isn’t second-guessing himself or his medical staff.
“The Nth degree of due diligence was done on the medical side,” Sabean said. “This is something we couldn’t pinpoint, and it shows the medical profession isn’t perfect . . . There’s nothing more we could’ve done.”
Groeschner said four MRI exams on Sanchez’s shoulder failed to detect the structural damage.
“It’s sports medicine,” Groeschner said. “It’s not black and white all the time.”
Can Sanchez still make the kind of impact that Sabean envisioned?
“I don’t see any reason why not,” the GM said. “He’s young enough, he’s hard-working, and he’s on a mission. He wanted to stay with the ballclub and be our second baseman, and that’s the way it’s going to turn out. I don’t have any doubt he will be back on the field in due order and be the guy who we traded for.”
At least the Giants know what they’re getting in Molina, whose return comes as a shock to everyone — including the former Gold Glove catcher. The New York Mets were the only other team to make an offer, and when they refused to guarantee a second year, the Giants re-entered talks.
Molina said it was a no-brainer to turn down the Mets’ $5 million offer and take $500,000 less to stay in San Francisco.
“I love these kids, I take a lot of pride in what I do, and we’re so close, so very close,” Molina said. “An expectation of finishing over .500 or something like that shouldn’t be in our minds. The expectation should be making the playoffs and winning it.”
Bochy said Molina would move from cleanup to sixth. That’s fine with the prideful catcher, who added he wouldn’t hold a grudge over taking a pay cut from last year’s $6 million salary. Molina repeated “that’s business” almost a dozen times during the conference call.
“I’m here to battle my butt off for seven months, and hopefully a little more,” he said.
Top prospect Buster Posey is expected to begin the season as the everyday catcher at Triple-A Fresno, but it’s possible he will receive a promotion at some point this year. Molina texted Posey on Thursday, and they had a friendly chat when the rookie called him back.
“I said I’m happy to help out with whatever he needs,” Molina said. “If they want to bring him up and do their thing, hey, I understand.”
The Giants plan to designate infielder Jesus Guzman for assignment to clear a 40-man roster space for Molina. With a hard squeeze on the roster and limited payroll flexibility, Sabean said any other acquisitions — including another right-handed relief choice or two — would come on minor league contracts with invitations to spring training.