|How Aurilia got his groove back with Giants|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 14 May 2007 10:37|
Aurilia's defense has been extraordinary - at shortstop, first base, third and even second. And his offense is nearly as steady in his second stint with the Giants.
The 35-year-old Aurilia signed an $8 million, two-year deal in December to return to the Giants as the team's primary first baseman. Little did he know he would regularly be playing all over the infield.
And that has been a luxury for first-year Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who has been able to rest regulars like 11-time Gold Glove shortstop Omar Vizquel, third baseman Pedro Feliz and second baseman Ray Durham.
``I've played more around than I thought I would, but I think based on the fact we don't really have another guy who can do that,'' Aurilia said.
``It's weird to be the utility guy but I play every day. When I originally signed, I don't know if there was a plan of where to put me yet. They knew they had Omar coming back but they didn't know third, second and first. I think the goal was to sign me because they knew I could play all three of those and then go from there. From there, they signed Ray and Pedro back so I fit in at first. Now I'm into the role of moving around, which is fine.''
Bochy has been great about communicating with Aurilia a night before where he is likely to play the next day. That allows Aurilia to take extra ground-ball practice at that position if he needs the work.
``I don't know if we thought we'd use him as much as we have,'' general manager Brian Sabean said. ``He's been involved all over the diamond.''
That's nothing new for Aurilia. He played all over the infield in each of the previous three seasons after leaving the Giants following the 2003 season in which he appeared in 123 games at shortstop. He spent 52 games at third for the Cincinnati Reds in 2006, 47 at first, 26 at shortstop and 10 at second base.
``We'd seen him and knew he had the ability to move around,'' said Bobby Evans, the Giants' director of player personnel. ``He's versatile and so good with the glove. His play at first base has been as impressive as anything. He's a great addition and he's such a solid guy, too. He's coming home.''
Home to a team Aurilia helped reach the World Series in 2002 despite struggling with injuries. The Giants went 82-46 with him in the lineup that season and 13-20 when he didn't start, and Aurilia had a team-leading 17 RBIs during the postseason. He had six home runs in 17 playoff games, a run that fell short against the wild-card Angels.
``When I first came over here, I was surprised he wasn't coming back,'' Durham said. ``I'm glad to be reunited with him. Not only is he a great player, he's a great person. ... It definitely helps (to be able to have a day off) - everybody's above their 30s.''
Aurilia had several game-turning hits in the season's first month, and that showed the Giants they had made the right move to bring him back. He is hitting .258 with 17 RBIs so far.
``I don't know historically in April how I do. This is the most I played in an April in three years,'' Aurilia said. ``I finally feel like I'm back here. Now that we're playing a little better and I'm getting used to being in the city again, it feels like old times. I feel comfortable again. It's like I never left. It's like I took a vacation for a couple of years.''
After 2003, Aurilia doubted he would return to the place where he got his start in the big leagues in 1995.
``Just being here - you have great memories and you had success, then you go somewhere else for a couple of years never really thinking you'll come back,'' he said. ``Just because of the fact you never know. I think it was just weird being in the uniform again.''