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Giants Roundup

Sweet and Sour

On the field, the Giants had a pretty damn good week. They enjoyed a six-game winning streak that chopped the Dodgers divisional lead in half and received strong pitching performances from several members of their starting rotation.

However, all positives stemming from their play are overshadowed by the continual stream of bad news coming from Barry Bonds' hospital room. A week ago, Bonds announced on his website that his rehabilitation was progressing steadily. Now it looks otherwise.

He's gone under the knife for the third time in as many months to try and fix his balky knee. His continued media boycott means that no timeline has been set for his return, but what is known is that he will be on his back for the next week as doctors make sure his knee doesn't become re-infected.

The injury woes don't stop there either. Brought in to provide some stability to a bullpen that cost the team a trip to the postseason in 2004, Armando Benitez has been nothing short of awful as evinced by his 5.79 ERA and 67% save conversion rate. On the other hand, he's been an excellent reliever for the better part of the last decade and likely would have rebounded to typical form. But after rupturing two of the three tendons in his hamstring while trying to cover first base, the Giants might have to find a closer for the rest of the season.

And considering the options that Felipe Alou has to select from, the situation is less than favorable. More than half of the bullpen has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1:1 or less, which means they would have trouble getting three outs in the ninth inning against the average corporate softball team, let alone professional athletes who are paid seven figures to smash everything that crosses the plate.

Last week in this space, I blasted management's decision to recall Al Levine as opposed to one of their qualified young pitching prospects. Well, exactly one week has passed and it's again time to call for minor league assistance. Now that Brad Hennessey has already been promoted, Matt Cain, Merkin Valdez and David Aardsma remain waiting for the phone to ring. Throw their names in a hat Brian Sabean and pick one. Otherwise, they better start handing out Rolaids at SBC Park for the ninth inning.

Go Niekro!
With Jose Reyes falling out of the running by drawing his first base on balls of the season, Giants slugger Lance Niekro has climbed up one rung on the ladder of "last player remaining to not receive a free pass". Here are the current standings with the player's at-bats in parentheses.

1. Aaron Miles (86)
2. Lance Niekro (45)
3. Raul Chavez (33)
4. Eddie Perez (31)

Granted, Niekro is a distant second, but if he can keep willing himself to flail at whatever the pitcher throws his way, he may catch a break by Miles falling into a free pass.

On a more serious note, Niekro is the only member of the exclusive club that hasn't been a total disaster for his ballclub. On the other hand, he is also the only one with an OBP lower than his batting average (due to sacrifices). With a batting average of .311 and four home runs in limited playing time, Niekro has actually been an asset to the Giants so far. Of course, I'd be willing to wager everything I have against a shiny nickel that he won't continue to be if he doesn't learn to recognize the difference between a ball and a strike.