Exhibition games are meaningless? Ask Gregor Blanco how meaningless they are.
Blanco came to spring training on a minor-league contract last year, hit .333 with 13 steals, and displayed a fancy glove in the exhibitions to bull his way onto the 25-man roster. He then played a big role in the Giants' championship run and earned a World Series ring.
Similarly, Joaquin Arias showed a lot of infield versatility last spring and hit .298 with two home runs and only three strikeouts in 47 at-bats. Arias did not make the team out of camp but arrived April 25 when Aubrey Huff went on the disabled list with an anxiety disorder. Arias became a valuable cog who manned third base for nearly seven weeks when Pablo Sandoval broke a hamate bone.
Now, the camp is filled with Blanco and Arias wannabes who hope to catch management's eye during a 37-game exhibition schedule that begins against the Angels on Saturday.
All the starting jobs are set, but the Giants need to fill one bullpen opening while finding a backup middle infielder and perhaps a fifth outfielder.
These competitions are not sexy, but manager Bruce Bochy said, "They're critical. Your 23rd, 24th, 25th guys play a critical role in your season. They're going to get playing time. You saw the job that Arias did at third base and short. They can make a difference in your season."
Assuming second-year man George Kontos keeps his job in the bullpen, a deep pool of candidates will vie for one relief spot. They include Chad Gaudin, Yusmeiro Petit, Dan Runzler, Steve Edlefsen, Jean Machi, Scott Proctor and Shane Loux. Prospect Heath Hembree also will have a chance to impress.


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