Bochy confident '09 will be a step up
Giants skipper talks with MLB.com about the upcoming season
Bruce Bochy enters his third season as manager of the San Francisco Giants, who feature a mixture of veterans and relative youngsters, proven performers and unproven ones.
On paper, the Giants aren't the National League West's most talented team, but Bochy proved during his 12-year tenure in San Diego that he could lead clubs without big stars into contention. Here's how Bochy addressed many of the relevant issues facing the Giants as the regular season approaches:MLB.com: You've repeated your belief that this club is better than it was last year at this time. Do you still feel that way?
An up-close look at the club as we approach Opening Day
Bochy: Yes. We're stronger in areas that we needed to improve on. I'll start with the bullpen and the acquisitions of [Bob] Howry and [Jeremy] Affeldt. We've had a minor setback with [Sergio] Romo. It's doubtful that he's going to start the season with us [due to an elbow injury]. We like the way Randy [Johnson] has been throwing the ball. [I like] Renteria at short. [Travis] Ishikawa's had a good spring. We're going to be questioned by baseball people how we're going to be at the corners. I think Travis is answering that question well and I think [Pablo] Sandoval is just getting better and better at third. But we're going to have to catch the ball. We're still working on things to improve our defense. That's going to have to be a big part of our game.MLB.com: You mentioned Sandoval's defense. What about it encourages you? Bochy: I think he's getting more comfortable with his timing and his jumps on balls. He's got room to improve, there's no getting around that. But from the first couple of games to this point, you can tell that the hard work is paying off. MLB.com: What has adding Johnson done, as far as intangibles and deepening the rotation? Bochy: When you have a guy with his experience, he's going to have something to offer the rest of the starters, whether it's Tim Lincecum, who can get better even though he won a Cy Young, or Matt Cain dealing with tough losses. [Johnson] has been through it all. He talks to these pitchers and they listen. He's going to help out in that area, dealing with the ups and downs that these guys are going to have. On top of that, he's throwing the ball well, so what he's going to give us on the mound will improve this ballclub because we really had a tough time in that fifth slot -- not that he's going to be our No. 5 pitcher, but he gives us that depth in the rotation we need. MLB.com: Does the starting pitching still look like a strength? Bochy: I'm very encouraged. We're pleased with where our starters are. Even though they're not stretched out to that sixth- and seventh-inning area yet, that's going to happen in the next couple of weeks. They're healthy and getting better and better each time they go out. When you talk about pitching being your strength, again, I'm going to get back to: We have to catch the ball. We have to make plays and execute. We're not a club that can go banging with the other teams and give up a lot of runs. MLB.com: What are going to be the factors that come into play when you decide on a second baseman between Emmanuel Burriss and Kevin Frandsen? Bochy: We're going to look at the lineup and see what's going to fit best in it. Also, defense will play a part in the overall picture, what we think is going to make this the best club. It's going to be a difficult decision because they're both playing very well. They're doing what you want to see in a competition. MLB.com: Ishikawa's emergence must be another encouraging development. Bochy: He's not only swinging the bat well, he's been doing a great job at first base. He's smooth over there. I think this guy will be an above-average first baseman. He's a good thrower, he's a smart player there and we're very pleased where he is as far as his offense. I think he's a guy who can provide some damage for us. MLB.com: Where will the offense come from with this lineup? Bochy: This is an offense, I think, that will get production throughout the order more consistently than last year. We're a little stronger one through eight. We're not a team that looks at one guy to carry us. Everybody's going to have to contribute and we think they will. Our eight-hole hitter is probably going to be our second baseman, and whoever it is, they're pretty good offensive players, too. MLB.com: Does the bullpen remain an area where you have competition for the last couple of spots? Bochy: Most teams do at this time of the spring. We're leaning more right now toward opening the season with 11 pitchers, so that tightens up the competition a little bit. A lot of times you say those jobs aren't determined in spring. Well, this spring, we're evaluating these guys every time out. We want to pound the strike zone. That's going to be a critical factor in who we take. MLB.com: What is the rationale for leaning toward 11 pitchers? Bochy: It's going to give us more depth, allow us to make more moves and allow us to carry another player who'll be used a lot, too, whether it's in the outfield, infield or pinch-running. It's going to allow you to make more moves during the course of a game. MLB.com: It was mostly unspoken, but last year it seemed like the team hoped to win. Now, it seems there are healthier expectations. Bochy: No question. "Hope" is not going to be the strategy this year. We've talked about that. When we hit the field, we expect to win. This is the mentality we have to have. MLB.com: Spring Training records aren't everything, but your team already has won as many games as it did all last spring. Is that a positive reflection on the club? Bochy: It is, because it builds some confidence within the club. Even though the regulars are coming out toward the end of the game, I think it's still important for us to win some games here. We've told the players that even though it's Spring Training, we're playing to win.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.