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02/14/09 5:01 PM EST

'Optimistic' Giants open Spring Training

San Francisco welcomes new faces to Scottsdale camp

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Though only pitchers and catchers were required to report to camp Saturday, the mood at the Giants' training complex Saturday seemed more fitting for a full-squad setting.

Aaron Rowand, Fred Lewis, Nate Schierholtz, Kevin Frandsen, Scott McClain and Brian Bocock were among the early-arriving position players who worked out informally but purposefully. Position players are due to report Tuesday, with the first full-squad workout scheduled for the next day. Pitchers and catchers will take the field for the first time Sunday.

Having endured four consecutive losing seasons, the Giants are approaching Spring Training intent on reversing their fortunes.

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"There's also a sense of confidence to go with that," manager Bruce Bochy said, referring to the addition of free agents Jeremy Affeldt, Bob Howry, Randy Johnson and Edgar Renteria and the 28-27 record San Francisco posted to close the season. "Every team comes to Spring Training full of optimism, but I think with the changes that have been made here, this club does come in with a sense of urgency to have a good year."

Johnson, who has won 295 games and a World Series with the Arizona Diamondbacks, already has caught his new teammates' enthusiasm.

"Maybe this is our year," Johnson said. "Why would it be so funny to say that?"

Besides good cheer, news also emanated from Giants camp. The anticipated competition for the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation diminished somewhat as left-hander Noah Lowry revealed that he felt tightness in the back of his throwing shoulder, which could delay his progress. Lowry, San Francisco's wins leader in 2005 and '07, is recovering from two arm surgeries that sidelined him last year. He's trying to unseat Jonathan Sanchez, who finished 9-12 and struck out 157 batters in 158 innings last season.

Lewis, the projected left fielder who underwent surgery last September to remove a bunion from his right big toe, acknowledged that he hasn't tried running from side to side or cutting, but still felt confident that he'll play in the Feb. 25 Cactus League opener against Cleveland.

The only other Giants player expected to be hampered by injury is right-hander Merkin Valdez, who recorded a 1.69 ERA in 17 relief appearances before a strained elbow sidelined him in mid-May. Bochy said that Valdez might be slightly behind the other pitchers physically, though he has been throwing.

Valdez will be among 29 pitchers in camp, an apparent excess given the number of spots that seem to be filled. Bochy anticipates fierce competition for the last bullpen opening or two. Affeldt, Howry, Jack Taschner and Brian Wilson are locks, and Alex Hinshaw, Sergio Romo and Keiichi Yabu might have an advantage over other contenders. But Valdez, Osiris Matos, Rule 5 Draftee Luis Perdomo, Billy Sadler and non-roster invitees Francis Beltran, Brandon Medders, Justin Miller and Ramon Ortiz will keep things interesting.

The Giants must learn whether Pablo Sandoval, who's virtually assured of a place in the Opening Day lineup due to his .345 average in 41 season-ending games last year, can handle third base adequately. Otherwise -- or if San Francisco signs free agent Joe Crede, which appears to be a long shot -- Sandoval will move to first base.

Should Sandoval remain at third, Travis Ishikawa, John Bowker and non-roster invitee Josh Phelps will compete at first base. Second base promises to be the site of another free-for-all involving Kevin Frandsen, Emmanuel Burriss and Eugenio Velez.

The Giants also want to boost their right-handed-hitting prowess off the bench or at first base if Ishikawa or Bowker sits against a tough left-handed starter. Rich Aurilia, who started 99 games at the infield corners last year, Scott McClain and Phelps are candidates for this role.

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