For most American kids, the first exposure to competitive baseball involves a tee and continuous reminders to run counterclockwise.
But they don't have too many T-ball leagues in the Dominican Republic. So a few years ago, when a coach in the Blue Jays system suggested that Eugenio Velez take swings off a tee, the skinny infielder gave him a look of disbelief. He might as well have asked Velez to hit with his pants on backward.
"When I walked away, I said, 'That guy's crazy,'"" Velez said. "Why do that? When you hit, the ball is moving."
But in late May, after the Giants returned Velez to Triple-A Fresno, he was open to anything. So when Grizzlies hitting coach Hensley "Bam Bam" Meulens suggested 20 minutes of tee work every day, Velez decided to try it.
"He said, 'You won't like it. You'll get tired. But I think it will help you control yourself,'"" Velez said. "I see the difference. It helps me keep my head down. I'm still doing it."
Meulens, a native of Curacao, also told Velez to concentrate on staying up the middle with every pitch. And while Velez considers Giants hitting coach Carney Lansford to be the best swing doctor in the system, he acknowledged it helped to commiserate with someone who spoke Spanish as a first language.
"Sometimes it's hard to explain what you need, how you feel," Velez said. "With Bam Bam, that was easy."
Velez had a double and a single Sunday to extend
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he expects outfielder Nate Schierholtz to be activated from the disabled list when he is eligible Tuesday. Bochy hasn't figured out how he plans to wedge Schierholtz into an outfield picture that now includes Velez. "We'll sit down and talk about how we'll rotate it to get everybody involved" said Bochy, adding that Fred Lewis needed at-bats, too. ... Center fielder Aaron Rowand exited after six innings after feeling a twinge in his left hamstring but was confident he would be available for the Dodgers series after receiving treatment. ... Disabled outfielder Andres Torres (strained left hamstring) is doing sprint work but hasn't begun running the bases. He expected to start a minor league rehab assignment by Friday. ... Freddy Sanchez had two more singles Sunday and has hit safely in all eight games since the Giants acquired him from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
— Andrew Baggarly