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02/18/10 3:00 AM EST
Giants aiming to fulfill last year's promise
Focus in spring will be on getting off to strong start this season
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants have added a few position players and a handful of pitchers, but their most significant newcomer is higher expectations.
Apparently, with expectations come anticipation.Of the 40 players on the Giants' Major League roster, 24 showed up at the team's training complex Wednesday, one day before pitchers and catchers hold their first workout. So did several non-roster invitees. The breadth of players showing up was such that all three Sanchezes -- left-hander Jonathan, second baseman Freddy and catcher Hector -- were on hand. Those present included numerous position players, though the first full-squad workout is next Tuesday. "That's a good sign, to get these guys out early and get a jump-start on everything," manager Bruce Bochy said. Following their 16-victory improvement last season to 88-74, which kept them in contention in the National League Wild Card race into the season's final week, the Giants intend to take the next step and reach the postseason for the first time since 2003. "It's always an exciting time of year when you get to camp," center fielder Aaron Rowand said. "You know how close we came last year, and I think everybody feels we're a bit better than last year." Armed with his new two-year, $23 million contract, Tim Lincecum will be able to focus on baseball, a mind-set he believes his teammates share. Lincecum senses that last season's near-miss could provide instant momentum. "I think last year was a good springboard for this season to kick off of," the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner said. Then again, the Giants can't assume that they'll automatically continue their 2009 success. "Last year was last year," third baseman Pablo Sandoval said. "This year's new." From an offensive perspective, that's just as well. The Giants must improve upon last year's output, which left them 13th in the NL in runs scored and last in the Major Leagues in OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage). Though the Giants didn't obtain the formidable middle-of-the-order presence that most observers considered their top priority, they managed to sign experienced, competent hitters in Mark DeRosa and Aubrey Huff. This was enough to impress their new teammates. "They added two bats," Sandoval said. "It's going to help." "With the offseason moves we did make, just that little bit of motivation is going to push the rest of us to want to do our part as well," Lincecum said. Plenty of competition is expected in camp, but most of it will be for secondary roles. It's unlikely that position players John Bowker, Emmanuel Burriss, Kevin Frandsen, Travis Ishikawa, Fred Lewis, Andres Torres and Eugenio Velez all will make the team. But with Bochy likely to use pinch-runners and late-inning defensive replacements quite frequently, bench roles will be coveted among this group. Catcher Buster Posey, the organization's top position-player prospect, will receive every opportunity to win the backup job behind Bengie Molina, though Eli Whiteside won't go away quietly. Another leading prospect, left-hander Madison Bumgarner, will have to fend off Joe Martinez, Kevin Pucetas and Todd Wellemeyer to win the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation. As always, health is an issue to some extent. Second baseman Freddy Sanchez (left knee), DeRosa (left wrist) and shortstop Edgar Renteria (right elbow) are coming off surgeries. Ishikawa (left foot) is wearing a walking boot and must wait until Feb. 26 to be re-examined. Renteria is expected to be fully ready when camp opens, and DeRosa might be mildly restricted only briefly. Sanchez's condition is improving, but if he's not ready by Opening Day, his injury will clear a roster spot for one of the aforementioned bench candidates, most of whom started at least part-time last year. "We have the opportunity to have depth," Giants general manager Brian Sabean said.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.