Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 4/30/12

The San Francisco Giants tried something new this year. They kept quite a few young, homegrown hitters on their Opening Day roster.

Gone were the well-traveled veterans who arrived through free agency, trades and waiver claims, either to play significant roles or be stopgaps. In either case, none fit the Giants' new model of ballplayer: younger, more athletic, homegrown.

The roster included not only Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval but Brandon Belt, Brett Pill, Brandon Crawford, Emmanuel Burriss and Hector Sanchez, along with 28-year-old Nate Schierholtz, the oldest of the breed of young farm-system products.

So how has it gone?

One month into the season, there are sad reminders of last year.

The Giants still have hitting issues. They're batting .197 with runners in scoring position, .173 with two outs and runners in scoring position. Close to the bottom of the league on both fronts.

For a team that's batting .261 overall -- third in the National League -- those clutch hitting stats aren't encouraging.

Only once this year (April 12 at Colorado) did the Giants collect as many as four hits in one game with runners in scoring position.

Those same problems happened last year. The 2011 Giants hit just .173 in two-out-runners-in-scoring-position scenarios, the worst average since the stat first was acknowledged in 1964.

But ... there's hope because this year's roster has youth and potential. Fans adore the youngsters after so many years of management bringing in older players as complementary pieces during the Barry Bonds era.

Posey, Sandoval and Belt get the crowds excited, though Belt's inconsistent playing time has fans upset. They think he should play more regularly. Manager Bruce Bochy has seemed to be overly faithful to Aubrey Huff -- now on the disabled list with an anxiety disorder -- while playing Pill or Posey at first base against left-handers.

The Giants were 12-10 through April, good for second place in the NL West but a record that might have been made possible because San Francisco played so many games against teams not expected to do much in 2012, including the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Mets and San Diego Padres.

"We need to do a better job executing," Bochy said. "We're getting guys on second and not moving them over. In tight ballgames, these are the things that catch up with you."

Of course, the rotation is as good as advertised -- with an asterisk. It goes four deep, but not the four anticipated. While ace Tim Lincecum (2-2 5.74 ERA) had a bummer of a month (at least until his final start), No. 5 starter Barry Zito (1-0, 1.67) was exceptionally good.

Matt Cain (1-1, 2.37) and Madison Bumgarner (4-1, 2.53) have been the best, and Ryan Vogelsong (0-1, 4.19) began the season on the DL and is trying to find his groove.

Overall, Giants starters have limited opponents to three earned runs or fewer in 11 of their last 12 games, posting a 2.39 ERA in the process. And by the way, four-fifths of that rotation is homegrown: Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner and Vogelsong, who returned to the team last season after being traded in 2001.

Posey is healthy and productive a season removed from his ugly home-plate collision that forced him to miss the final four months of last season, and Sandoval opened the season with a 20-game hitting streak, the longest in franchise history to open a year.

Schierholtz is the lone Giant hitting above .300 with runners in scoring position, and Sandoval is at .292. For many others -- Posey's at .222, Melky Cabrera's at .217, Angel Pagan's at .111 -- life has been tough hitting in the clutch.

But fans have supported this team -- and every home game has sold out -- so the move to youth and homegrown talent has been accepted. Now it's a matter of making it work.

After all, it's a far cry from last year when so many hitters for hire were on board. Many of those players no longer are part of the organization.

The list includes Cody Ross, Pat Burrell, Andres Torres, Aaron Rowand, Mark DeRosa, Miguel Tejada, Jeff Keppinger, Orlando Cabrera, Mike Fontenot and Bill Hall.

Another is Carlos Beltran, the one player the Giants had interest in during the offseason. They deemed him too pricey to re-sign, and he joined the Cardinals. For now, in Beltran's absence, the Giants are happy with Cabrera and Pagan in the outfield.

They're not homegrown, but they've got track records. Meantime, the Giants have plenty of young, homegrown players with plenty of upside. And for the fan base, that's refreshing.

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