Dickey: Giants’ growing pains

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Giants manager Bruce Bochy knows the Giants have to develop their younger players, but he also knows that a manager is judged on his won-lost record, so he has a challenging balancing act this season.

“We’re still trying to win games,” he said when we talked Sunday. “We’re not conceding anything at this stage of the season. But it’s obvious we’ve gone in a different direction this season. I haven’t been told by anybody in management what I have to do, but nobody has to tell me.”

To some extent, Bochy’s hand has been forced by injuries to older players. Dave Roberts was the starter in left field, but surgery has sidelined him. That opened the way for Fred Lewis, who has played well, though he’s shown a weakness against left-handed pitching recently.

At second, Ray Durham’s injury problems have made way for , who has been very exciting, but not always in a good way. His failure to flag down a ball going to right field in Philadelphia cost the Giants a win.

“I don’t care how young you are, you have to make sure that ball doesn’t get through,” Bochy said.

That experience may have cost the Giants another game, again against the Phillies — this time at home Friday — when Velez’s throw to the plate with the bases loaded was late.

“He made the right play, but he was so conscious of looking the ball into his glove that he didn’t realize he had to hurry the play,” Bochy said.

Still, Bochy has hopes the fleet Velez will develop into a solid player.

“Nobody works harder,” Bochy said. “He’s out here before everybody every day. Having [Omar] Vizquel back should help. Even though he was injured this spring, I asked Omar to talk with him.”

Another problem arose when the Giants faced six left-handed starters in success, which led to Bochy benching John Bowker.

“That wasn’t the only reason,” he said. “Richie [Aurilia] really got hot with the bat at that time.”

Bochy did want to take some of the pressure off Bowker but said, “I won’t bench Bowker and Lewis all the time against left-handers. They have to learn to hit them, too.”

Back in the lineup against right-hander Adam Eaton on Sunday, Bowker got two hits. The first drove in a run and the second one would have if anybody but Bengie Molina had been on second.

Bochy has been pleased by Bowker’s defensive play at first.

“It’s not an easy position,” he said. “I’m amazed at how quickly he’s picked that up. He has really taken to it. He has great reactions.”

The Giants had earlier shifted Daniel Ortmeier from outfield to first base, but Ortmeier had a bad spring — “It was really ugly,” Bochy said — which led the Giants to finally convince him to just swing right-handed.

“It’s hard for a young player to switch-hit,” Bochy said, “and they usually struggle with their left side. His righty-lefty splits in the minors were pretty dramatic.”

At this point, Bochy isn’t sure where Ortmeier will eventually play but said, “It’s nice to have flexibility with Bowker and Ortmeier, where either one could play first or theoutfield.”

But performance, not flexibility, is the most important factor now, especially for a manager whose contract runs only through 2009 and feels the pressure to win now.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at glenndickey@hotmail.com.

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