Dickey: Giants are better off planning for future now

As major league baseball approaches the All-Star Game, reality is setting in. Even in their pathetically weak division, the Giants are not serious contenders, closer to last place than first. The emphasis should still be on developing a team that can be a contender in the near future.

But somebody needs to tell manager Bruce Bochy and general manager Brian Sabean. They don’t seem to understand.

Have you noticed that every time Bochy says he’s going to play a younger player, he goes back to a veteran. At the start of last week, he told Omar Vizquel he’d have to give more playing time to rookie Emmanuel Burriss, and Vizquel said he was OK with that.

So, who started the next five games? Vizquel, of course. Bochy explained that he wanted to give Vizquel a chance to get his batting stroke back. Earth to Bruce: It’s not going to happen. Vizquel is 41 and he’s coming off the worst full season of his career, at 40. He’s still magical with the glove, but he’s no longer capable of hitting well enough to be in the regular lineup.

For all the talk about younger players, six of the eight Giants with more than 200 at-bats this year are veterans, and Vizquel would be the seventh if he hadn’t been recovering from surgery at the start of the season.

Fred Lewis is the only youngster with more than 300 at-bats, and he probably wouldn’t have more than a third of them if Dave Roberts hadn’t been sidelined by surgery. Rookie John Bowker leads the club with nine home runs but Bochy still benches him against left-handed pitchers. Earlier, there was speculation that the Giants were showcasing Rich Aurilia and Ray Durham, but does anybody seriously believe they’d bring much in a trade?

Meanwhile, Sabean doesn’t appear to be trying to trade for aveteran to help the team this year — thank God for small favors — but he seems determined to hang on to Randy Winn, their only veteran who has some trade value. Winn is blocking the progress of Nate Schierholtz, who is batting .298 in 78 games at Fresno with good power numbers, 12 homers, 16 doubles, nine triples and 55 RBIs.

Winn is a slightly better player now, but at 34, he has no upside. Why keep him? It would make much more sense to trade him and give Schierholtz a chance to develop in the majors.

Looking ahead to 2009, there are things I like about the Giants. Their young starting pitching has a chance to be great.

Tim Lincecum is already there, Jonathan Sanchez has made great strides. Matt Cain is struggling, but young power pitchers often take longer to develop — and he’s only 23. Give him time and he’ll be a great one. Kevin Correia has shown flashes. And, of course, Noah Lowry had established himself before he was sidelined by a mysterious ailment.

The Giants also have an All-Star closer in Brian Wilson, who’s only 26. Their middle relief pitchers have been erratic, but one of Sabean’s strengths in the past has been finding guys to fill that role. Hopefully, he could do it again.

There are still questions about the everyday lineup, which is why the Giants should be concentrating on developing young players. Forget this year. It’s not happening.

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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