Giavotella, Getz vying for second base job

Giavotella, Getz vying for second base job

Giavotella, Getz vying for second base job
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- One guy is coming off hip surgery and the other has overcome a concussion, and together they're providing a healthy competition for the Royals' second base job.

The sparring between Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella represents the biggest battle for a non-pitching position in the Kansas City camp this year. Oh, the Melky Cabrera trade opened center field, but Lorenzo Cain seems set to fill that void. Second base isn't so clear cut.

Giavotella, who had postseason surgery on his right hip, had the job at the end of last season after his callup from Triple-A Omaha, and he probably has a slight edge.

Here's how manager Ned Yost viewed the situation as camp began:

"We like Johnny's talent, we like what Johnny has been able to accomplish at the Minor League level. We have a real strong feeling that with his makeup and his work ethic he's going to continue that production at the Major League level. So that in itself gives him maybe a foot ahead in the competition coming into spring.

"But I don't come into it with any preconceived notions other than that. It's going to be a competition, really. Getzy has done everything he needed to do to put himself in a position to compete. He's stronger, he's in better shape. He's always showed up in great shape but, quite honestly, he didn't have enough pop in his bat to drive the ball. But this year it's different. I've watched him taking batting practice and the ball jumps off his bat now. He's driving the ball better, he's stronger. Now, we've got the tough task of evaluating these guys over a six-week period."

Getz's 2010 season ended in September because of a concussion, sustained when he was hit in the head by a thrown ball, and the recovery cut into his preparation for 2011. But that wasn't an issue this winter. Getz had a different trainer, a different routine and the different results obviously caught Yost's attention.

"I wasn't just trying to bulk up for the sake of looking bigger, but definitely the training was focused on make me a better athlete in general, so I take that as a compliment," Getz said. "The point of all that is to improve my game on both sides of the field along with baserunning."

Giavotella is also in fine shape after his surgery to repair a labral tear in his hip.

"Everything feels good," Giavotella said. "I don't think it really affected the way I was playing. It was definitely causing me some pain but, as far as limiting my ability, I don't think it hindered me too much. I was still able to play at a high level even though I was feeling some pain. I just played through it and I'm glad everything is fine now."

The choice basically comes down to choosing between a guy known more for his hitting, Giavotella, and a guy known more for his fielding and baserunning, Getz.

Giavotella's record showed a .322 average and 65 RBIs in 2010 at Double-A and .338 and 72 RBIs last year at Triple-A before KC called on Aug. 5. He batted a modest .247 in his 46 big league games. Could his sore hip have had an effect?

"There weren't any indications of him struggling with his bottom half in his swing at all," hitting coach Kevin Seitzer said. "I think he'll be all right. We've talked quite a bit about what happened last year and what happened when he was hot and when he wasn't. Again it goes back to the adjustments that you have to make as a hitter."

Part of Giavotella's continuing routine is extra fielding practice with coach Eddie Rodriguez.

"There's always room for improvement no matter how much you practice, and you can always get better. I've got a long way to go to be a great defender and that's my goal," Giavotella said. "I'm working on quick feet and extending my range."

If the right-handed-hitting Giavotella does win the job, he's likely to be the No. 2 batter in the lineup.

"I actually hit No. 2 my entire career in the Minors," he said. "It's a position that I feel comfortable at. I like having 'team' at-bats. I like getting guys over, hitting the ball the other way. So I definitely feel like I can be a No. 2 hitter."

Getz, a left-handed batter, hit .255 last season and had just nine extra-base hits in 380 at-bats but he has some offensive credentials in his resume. For example, in both 2008 and 2009, Baseball America named him the "best hitter for average" with the "best strike zone discipline" in the White Sox farm system. He prefaced his time at Chicago with a .302 average and 11 homers for Triple-A Charlotte.

"I've always had to work at fielding," Getz said. "Going through the Minor Leagues, to be honest, I came up more as a hitter than defensively, and then kind of improved as time went on."

Getz has also been proficient in swiping bases -- he has a total of 62 stolen bases in 74 tries during his big league career and that's a big part of his game.

"I feel explosive and I'll be able to run well," he said.

A third party, Yuniesky Betancourt, could edge into the second base picture, but Yost seems set on using him as an alternate at three infield spots -- shortstop, second and third.

"Yuni will still get his playing time, it's not like Yuni is going to be sitting on the bench," Yost said.

Giavotella, although he might have an edge on the second base job, isn't taking anything for granted.

"No position is guaranteed, in my opinion, so I'm going to go out there every day and practice my butt off, and work on the things I need to work on, so when the season comes, I'm ready to go," Giavotella said.

He and Getz have lockers in close proximity in the Spring Training clubhouse.

"There's no animosity, we have a good relationship," Getz said. "We're having fun with it. ... But he wants to win the job as do I."

Given the limits of a 25-man roster, the fact that both Giavotella and Getz have options remaining could mean that the loser in their competition might start the season with Omaha.

"It may start out one guy playing second and one guy in the Minors and, a month later, the roles could be reversed," Yost said. "I don't know, but we're going to go with the best player that gives us an opportunity to win every day."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.