SAN FRANCISCO -- Brandon Hicks walked into the Giants clubhouse at AT&T Park on Thursday to find his name above a locker directly in between those of fellow bearded infielders Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt.
“Pretty funny, huh?” Hicks said. “‘Brandon Row’ over here.’”
While Hicks is still technically a non-roster invitee who accompanied the Giants north for the exhibition Bay Bridge series, it’s looking increasingly likely the 28-year-old infielder will be a member of the 25-man roster on Opening Day.
With second baseman Marco Scutaro expected to start the season on the disabled list with an ailing back, Hicks and Ehire Adrianza are virtual locks to make the team as the backup infielders when the Giants finalize their roster -- something manager Bruce Bochy said will happen today.
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Hicks started at second base in the Giants’ 4-0 loss to the A’s on Friday night, while Brandon Belt batted in the No. 2 spot, where the Giants hoped to have Scutaro to begin the season. Bochy said Scutaro’s absence will require the Giants to “be creative” in the two-spot, where they’ll begin the season starting Belt against right-handers and right fielder Hunter Pence against lefties.
“They’re good on-base guys, their numbers are good,” Bochy said. “You get one of your better hitters at the top of the order. Both of them run well.”
Joaquin Arias and Crawford are also possible candidates, but Bochy said the first option will be the Belt-Pence tandem, with whoever isn’t hitting second on a given day likely dropping down to the No. 5 spot.
Arias figures to man second base while Scutaro is out, but Bochy also sounded confident on Friday talking about Hicks, who began the day batting .364 in spring (16-for-44) with three home runs, seven doubles and 11 RBIs.
Hicks, who spent much of 2012 with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats, also had nine walks to just 11 strikeouts -- a positive sign for the infielder, who has struck out in 42 of his 90 career major-league at-bats, 64 of which came with the A’s two seasons ago.
“I think he’s the perfect type of utility player,” said Bochy, who added the Giants have had Hicks work in the outfield some in case he’s needed there in a double-switch. “He’s a threat at the plate, he’s got some power. We’ll put him at second today, but wherever I put him, I’m comfortable. He’s had a great spring.”
Hicks said he isn’t taking anything for granted, but that he is in a good place hitting-wise after dedicating part of the offseason to shortening his swing to cut down the strikeouts. In past seasons, he said, “I’ve gotten in trouble chasing the pitcher’s pitch a lot. So I’ve just been getting myself in good counts, been able to put my pitch in play when I get it.”
Across the field, A’s manager Bob Melvin said the A’s also intend to finalize their roster today. Among the impending decisions is whether the A’s will carry three catchers -- if not, it’s possible Stephen Vogt, who caught all five games of the A.L. Division Series last October, could be sent to Triple-A to start the season.
Melvin said he’d “prefer not to comment on that until it actually happens, if indeed that does happen.” Overall, Melvin said, “We’re going to have to cut it down to 25, and I feel like we have a few other guys that should make the team and unfortunately they won’t.”
Also needing clarity are the final spots in the A’s bullpen, opened by long reliever Jesse Chavez’s move to the rotation and set-up man Ryan Cook starting the season on the DL. Melvin said left-hander Fernando Abad is “in a good position” to make the team, while Drew Pomeranz and Evan Scribner are both candidates for the long relief role.