Giants' battle for second could last entire spring

Durham, Frandsen vying for starting job

02/18/2008 3:37 AM

02/18/2008 3:39 AM

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When the position players report to Giants camp today, one of the most intriguing story lines will be the competition at second base, featuring relative newcomer Kevin Frandsen vs. incumbent Ray Durham.

The 25-year-old Frandsen, in the best shape of his young career after a rigorous offseason regimen, said he plans to do all in his power to take the job -- and San Francisco's brass will give him that chance. At 36, Durham begins his 14th major-league season and a contract year looking to bounce back from a career-worst campaign in 2007 in which nothing seemed to go right.

Frandsen said the Giants told him before the offseason to prepare to play second, but the dilemma with Durham is that he's due to make $7.5 million in 2008.

"They said, 'Your play has shown us a lot, but obviously there is a little obstacle in front,' " Frandsen said. "It's one of those things that will play itself out. I don't think they needed to tell me to get ready for this season. I took a month off and that's about all I needed.

"I've experienced plenty around here, as far as situational stuff. I know there's plenty more to go, but hopefully a lot more good than just learning experiences. That's exciting for me to think about."

General manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy have had plenty of chances to watch Frandsen in recent days, considering he has been working out at Scottsdale Stadium with other early arriving position players. Frandsen is lean, stronger and weighs 185 pounds this spring, down about 5 pounds from his 2007 playing weight.

"It's going to be interesting in spring training," said 11-time Gold Glove shortstop Omar Vizquel, who arrived Sunday, one day ahead of schedule. "We've got a lot of work to do this spring to establish our infield going into the season. There are a lot of questions about who's going to be at third, who's going to be at second and probably who's going to be at short."

The 40-year-old Vizquel was joking about his own position on the field, considering he signed a $5.3 million, one-year contract in November with a club option for 2009. Vizquel's friendly, familiar face and reliable glove and leaping, athletic defense provides the most stability in this infield. With an adopted 8-month-old girl named Caylee now at home, he spent little time sleeping this winter and will be eager to hit the field as is always the case.

Vizquel is most focused on improving his offensive numbers -- .246 with 51 RBIs last year -- whether he bats second or eighth in the order. He even played winter ball back home in Venezuela for a few weeks.

Dan Ortmeier is slated to start at first after a move from the outfield last year, and third base remains a question though Rich Aurilia is certainly in the mix if the Giants don't make a trade to acquire someone else to play that spot.

"They have already said kind of the direction they're going (at second)," Aurilia said. "If Ray can bounce back -- he will say last year was a lost year, and we all have them -- I'm sure it's going to be interesting. Ray will be ready to play, and Franny will be ready to play. It could go all spring."

Durham batted a career-low .218 last year in his fifth season for San Francisco with 11 home runs and 71 RBIs. Bochy is eager to see how Durham looks when he arrives.

"I am -- to see where he's at physically and also see where his head's at," the Giants' second-year skipper said. "I will sit down with Ray when he gets here to talk about the situation we're looking at."

The switch-hitting Durham's down year followed his best season ever in 2006, when he hit .293 with career bests of 26 homers and 93 RBIs. The home runs and RBIs were the highest totals in franchise history by a switch hitter.

Frandsen, meanwhile, has played only parts of two major-league seasons the past two years, but appeared in 109 games for the Giants in 2007 and batted .269 with five homers, 31 RBIs, 12 doubles and a triple.

"It's time now. That's the way I look at it. It's my time," Frandsen said. "I've proven myself and what I can do as an everyday basis as a regular."

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