Giants looking for speed in the outfield 

They are like fireflies buzzing around in a jar, waiting to be set free and provide a spark.

Whichever players survive the final cut to become the fourth and fifth outfielders for the San Francisco Giants will be assuming a significant role. And their speed could play more of a role than ever before, particularly on the basepaths in the late innings.

"We're in a bigger ballpark and we have to find ways to create runs," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "Baserunning is such an important part of it, bench speed.

"We feel that's a need, we're going to be a type of club that you're going to see those types of moves late in the ballgame, putting a speed guy in there. It could be a major part of the decision-making (for the final spots)."

Aaron Rowand (center field), Nate Schierholtz (right) and Mark DeRosa (left) are set as the starters. DeRosa also can play anywhere in the infield.

That leaves the final two spots up for grabs between John Bowker, Darren Ford, Fred Lewis, Andres Torres and Eugenio Velez.

If you are relying on pure speed, the 24-year-old Ford has the edge. The man who began his career in the Milwaukee organization blazed around the bases with a triple and scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly in a 5-4 victory over Texas on Monday. He was hitting .474 entering Tuesday's game.

Keeping him might be too hard to resist. He has stolen 251 bases since 2005. His only drawback is experience. He has never played at a level higher than Class A.

"I'm not going to worry about what happens. I'm just going to go out and give it my all," said Ford, a center fielder. "Speed is God-given. You can't teach it. I'm just going to do whatever the Giants want. I think I can hit and I can run."

Velez, 27, also has above-average speed. He has range in the outfield to track down balls hit into the gaps, and he can play the infield.

Torres, 32, has played in 164 big-league games, 75 with the Giants. He is hitting .294. Like Velez, he is a switch-hitter. Torres had 313 steals in the minor leagues and eight in the majors.

"My experience has helped me a lot. I think it is very important," Torres said.

Lewis, 29, bats left-handed and hit .258 with eight stolen bases in 122 games last season. He was hitting .257 with three home runs through Monday. He has 34 steals in 326 games with the Giants, going back to 2006, with a .277 career average.

"If you're playing in the outfield, you pretty much have good speed," Lewis said. "I have taken pride in that, my defense, that I can play all three outfield positions. As far as my hitting goes, I let my bat do the talking."

Bowker, 26, is a well-rounded athlete. He can play the corner outfield spots and first base. The left-handed hitter has hit .244 in 142 games with the Giants, and was hitting .267 with a pair of home runs and a team-leading 11 RBIs through Monday.

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Michael Daboll

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