Leader Winn won't change approach
Former basketball player slated to bat third this season
SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. -- The one time the Giants needed an emergency catcher during a regular-season game last year, they also needed an emergency third baseman.Randy Winn to the rescue. "The other two outfielders were left-handed, so I figured it had to be me," Winn said before San Francisco's Spring Training game against the Padres on Wednesday. "It was OK; I played infield in college." He also played a little basketball in college, and was both a teammate and roommate of current NBA star Steve Nash at Santa Clara University. "It's been a long time since I've played, but March Madness is definitely one of the best times in sports in general. The NBA playoffs are revving up and the Western Conference playoffs will be unbelievable." Winn's 14th professional season in baseball is also revving up, and the 33-year-old will be expected to take an important role as the Giants move forward without their offensive centerpiece, Barry Bonds, for the first time since 1992. Winn and Nash, by the way, played in the 1993 NCAA tournament, knocking second-seeded Arizona from the first round. Penciled in as the No. 3 hitter in a lineup lacking a true power hitter, Winn won't be adjusting his swing to reach the fences more often. "I'm not a power hitter and I'm never going to be a power hitter," Winn said. "I don't even hit a lot of home runs in batting practice. I'm not going to be a power hitter all of a sudden. Last year I started batting eighth, and then kept moving up. I hit third because I hit line drives. I know I'm not going to transform. I'll do what I can." What Winn -- one of 56 players from Santa Clara to reach the Major Leagues since 1904 -- can do is consistently produce. He's a lifetime .286 hitter and has hit 288 doubles, 50 triples and 94 home runs while driving in 522 runs. He's never hit more than 14 homers (four times) or driven in more than 81 runs (2004) in any one season, but he's also been the most flexible of hitters in that he has hit up and down the lineup and has been equally effective everywhere, except cleanup, where he's 0-for-1. "A lot of it is like hitting second, when you hit to the situation," Winn said. "When you have a runner on, you want to move him over. When you're the leadoff hitter, you want to get on base any way you can." His career average at the No. 3 spot is .302, bettered only by a .311 mark in the sixth spot. He's better with runners on, with a .561 slugging percentage with the bases loaded and a .361 batting average with a runner on third and less than two outs. "There's no added pressure," Winn said. "When you hit third you get more chances to drive in runs because the one and two guys get on base."
With the addition of center fielder Aaron Rowand, the Giants have vastly improved their outfield defense. Winn, who has played all three positions, will likely again make treacherous right field his home at AT&T Park, with some cameo appearances at the other two spots."I didn't sign here to play a certain position," he said. "I signed to be a baseball player, to do whatever gives us the best chance." To that extent, he's helpful to the younger outfielders like Rajai Davis, Fred Lewis and Nate Schierholtz. It's a crowded situation, and Winn understands there's always room for improvement. "You have to keep learning in this game," he said. "I've been here for a while now and as someone helped me, I try to help the younger guys." That's something guys like Schierholtz, who graduated from San Ramon Valley High, the same school which Winn attended, appreciate. "He's always giving us tips in the outfield," Schierholtz said. "He's a guy who has played a long time with success. We respect him and we're always listening."
Rick Eymer is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.