SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Aubrey Huff has a thing for "Transformers." Last year, when the Detroit Tigers' wives assembled charitable gift baskets filled with their husbands' favorites, Huff's goodies included a Megatron action figure and a DVD of the movie.
His fan worship for the old cartoon show is no passing fancy — otherwise he wouldn't have tattooed giant Autobot and Decepticon logos on either side of his upper back.
And now that the former American League designated hitter is wearing a Giants uniform and a first baseman's mitt, he's determined to prove that he's more than meets the eye, too.
"When you're a DH, you get labeled by people who've never played the game," said the 33-year-old, who won a Silver Slugger award in 2008. "It's hard to shake. People believe what they read, unfortunately, but I'll play every day and prove that I'm not bad over there."
Although it's vital that the Giants support their talented pitching staff, they do not anticipate having an above-average defensive infield. Their one highly skilled glove man from last year, Travis Ishikawa, didn't hit enough on the road to retain a starting job.
According to the UZR/150, a formula that determines the number of runs a fielder saves or costs his team, Ishikawa was the best everyday defensive first baseman in the majors last season. Huff graded slightly below average.
But Huff has his believers. Baltimore Orioles broadcaster Dave Johnson watched
"You don't really notice him," said Johnson, in Scotts- dale to watch his son, Steven, whom the Giants took in the Rule 5 draft. "He made the plays he was supposed to make. He did fine over there."
Huff's defense received another vote of confidence from an even more trusted source.
"He looks pretty good to me," said Giants special assistant and former Gold Glove winner J.T. Snow. "We were doing a drill to pick balls out of the dirt, and he might have missed one. He's played it before, so he knows how to handle it."
That's no small matter to Snow. In previous years, the front office asked him to convert outfielders Daniel Ortmeier and John Bowker to first base. Those results weren't so pretty.
"Bunt plays, pickoffs "... the game moves pretty fast when you're on the infield for the first time," Snow said. "None of that is new to Aubrey. And I think he's a pretty honest guy. He said he'll do the best job he can. He's not expecting to win a Gold Glove."
Huff's presence doesn't necessarily spell doom for Ishikawa, who received good news Saturday when an MRI exam showed partially torn ligaments in his foot are healing well and won't require surgery.
Ishikawa hopes to be out of his walking boot in a week and back to unrestricted duty soon after that.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Ishikawa remains "very much in the mix" for a roster spot. "Ishi has shown he can do some things to help you win a ballgame, whether it's defense or hitting a ball out of the ballpark."
It would seem Bochy plans to use Ishikawa often as a late-inning defensive replacement. The manager also said he plans to get Huff some work in the outfield, where he hasn't played a big league inning since 2006 with the Houston Astros.
"Just to make sure we have that option," Bochy said.
Huff is willing to transform himself as needed.
"I won't lie to you, I'm not the rangiest guy," he said. "I mean, it's not like I won't dive for a ball. I'll make the routine play and occasionally make the really good play. That's all you can ask for."
For more on the Giants, see Andrew Baggarly's Extra Baggs blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/extrabaggs.