Marco Scutaro The Giants' second baseman was 3 for 27 through the first seven games this season and traced his slow start to a back problem late in spring training.

Giants' Scutaro seeks another turnaround

Published: Wednesday, Apr. 10, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Wednesday, Apr. 10, 2013 - 5:45 pm

SAN FRANCISCO – Marco Scutaro was in a 4-for-23 skid when he was traded to the Giants last July, but in his last at-bat as a Colorado Rockie, he doubled.

Calling it foreshadowing might be a stretch, but several of Scutaro's former teammates, in town to play the Giants, said they weren't surprised to see him catch fire offensively after the move.

"When he was here, during the season, he made a lot of outs, but they were hard outs," third baseman Chris Nelson said. "They were line drives. They were just in the wrong spot."

"Even in the time I was playing here with him, his average might not have showed it, but the balls he was hitting were just right at people," said Josh Rutledge, who debuted with the Rockies two weeks before Scutaro was traded and this season has assumed the second-base role that Scutaro vacated.

"He was just having a lot of bad luck with us. It seemed like things started to turn around for him after he got traded."

Batting .271 at the time of the July 27 trade, Scutaro hit .362 with the Giants in the regular season and .328 in the playoffs, including a 14-for-28 tear through the National League Championship Series.

That coincided with Scutaro's batting average on balls in play jumping nearly 80 points – from .287 with the Rockies to .366 with the Giants, according to the analytics website FanGraphs.com – bearing out Rutledge's idea that the balls Scutaro hit in San Francisco found gloves much less regularly.

Nelson and Rutledge said that even when Scutaro wasn't so hot at the plate, he didn't let it have an outward effect.

"He's an even-keel guy," Nelson said. "You wouldn't know if he's hitting .400 or .100."

That's the temperament, born of 12 seasons' experience, that manager Bruce Bochy expects to help as Scutaro works through a slow start this season. Through the first seven games, the second baseman was 3 for 27 with three singles, and he admitted Monday he has been working through timing and mechanical issues that began after his back "locked up" on him late in spring training.

Scutaro was so consistent at the plate for the Giants last year that he "probably spoiled us a little bit," Bochy said. The manager had planned on giving Scutaro a day off during the Colorado series, but he said Tuesday that Scutaro's back was "good to go" and he'll likely rest Thursday in the opener of a series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Scutaro diagnosed the issue as "jumping" at pitches rather than letting them get deep in the zone, and he said it's a matter of regaining his timing. He showed signs of doing that Tuesday, going 3 for 4 with three singles.

Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki played only two months alongside Scutaro before missing the rest of last season because of an injury, but he offered this assessment of the veteran: "You watch him, how he prepares for a game, how he goes through a season – he never really presses the panic button."

Posey rests – Buster Posey was not in the lineup Tuesday. Bochy said that with Posey scheduled to get a day off during the Colorado series and the Giants facing a left-hander today, it made sense to rest his cleanup hitter Tuesday.

That put Hector Sanchez, who often caught Tim Lincecum last year, behind the plate catching Lincecum for the second time this season. Before the game, Bochy did not rule out a scenario where Sanchez could become Lincecum's regular catcher.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with your regular catcher getting a day off and your backup catches the same guy every time," Bochy said. "There's a sense of comfort for both of them."

What Bochy wants to avoid is being bound to removing either Posey or Brandon Belt – if Posey started at first base – from the lineup when Lincecum starts. Posey caught Lincecum in spring training and was going to catch his first start against the Los Angeles Dodgers until Belt was too sick to play.

Call The Bee's Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. Read his Bay Area Baseball blog at blogs.sacbee.com/bay-area-baseball/. Follow him on Twitter @matthewkawahara.

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