10/03/10 11:13 PM ET
Giants make midseason makeover work
Burrell, bullpen additions key to capturing NL West title
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
Changes to the lineup. Changes to the bullpen. All absorbed seamlessly by a strong core of players already in the Giants' clubhouse.
Call it Extreme Makeover: Giants Edition.
Call it a huge key to San Francisco basking in its first NL West title since 2003.
"We couldn't have done it without them," said first baseman Aubrey Huff, who was with the team from the outset of the season but also was new to the scene in 2010, after the Giants' 3-0 clincher over the Padres.
From Pat Burrell's arrival in June to the July acquisitions of relievers Javier Lopez, Ramon Ramirez and Chris Ray to the August waiver additions of Jose Guillen, Cody Ross and Mike Fontenot, the Giants brought in reinforcements from a wide range of sources.
With Burrell leading the way with his 18 homers and 51 RBIs since he was signed following his release by the Rays, the new kids on the Giants' block worked their way into being part of a special season in San Francisco.
"When you have a lot of good guys already here and you add guys all with the common goal of winning, it's easy to get a team to come together like this one did," said Burrell, the hometown hero who went 2-for-3 in the clincher.
Of course, it's not always that easy. New faces and new personalities coming into a clubhouse might not mesh, either on the field or in the clubhouse. Padres starter Mat Latos even suggested recently that the Giants had become a bunch of mercenaries, while the Padres hadn't just "grabbed guys from other teams."
There's little question how this remix worked out, and it took acceptance by those already there to make it happen.
"We just have a clubhouse personality that everybody adapted to here," said closer Brian Wilson. "We've got a lot of guys with a lot of personality, and different personalities. ... Everybody who's come here understands they're part of a team, and they were welcomed with open arms."
On the subject of arms, Lopez and Ramirez became exactly what the Giants needed in the bullpen -- two guys both with experience pitching in the proving ground of Colorado and the big-game atmosphere of Boston. And with Lopez providing needed help on the left-handed side with Jeremy Affeldt out of action at the time and Ramirez providing late-innings work from the right side, they joined with established Giants relievers Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla to provide a reliable bridge to Wilson.
"It can feel like you're the new kid in school, that's just going to happen when you get traded to a new ballclub and you don't know people and might not know exactly what your role's going to be," Lopez said. "These guys pretty much just said, 'Get on board, jump on in and do your job the best you can.'"
Mission accomplished by Lopez and Ramirez, who finished up the regular season by doing their jobs quite well -- Ramirez closing out the seventh for Casilla with a strikeout of No. 3 hitter Miguel Tejada, and Lopez getting left-handed cleanup man and All-Star Adrian Gonzalez to pop out to foul territory.
With the arrival of Fontenot in a trade with the Cubs on Aug. 11, Guillen on Aug. 13 in a trade with the Royals and Ross on Aug. 23 on a waiver claim from the Marlins, Giants manager Bruce Bochy had new options in the infield and outfield, and in the lineup.
And each contributed in some way to the champagne-drenched clubhouse at AT&T Park on Sunday afternoon.
Having seen the additions of Ray, Lopez and Ramirez give a boost to the bullpen, Bochy had a good feeling the rest of the newcomers would fit right into the group clad in orange and black.
"They all blended in well with the guys we had here, and the guys out there [in the clubhouse] really take care of that," Bochy said. "All the guys coalesced into a team that wanted to get where we are now."
From the players' perspective, this makeover was just as much a thing of beauty.
"It all came together," Ross said. "It's just one of those years where it happened to work out really well. You've got to give credit to the front office for doing it, and I'm just so glad to be a part of it."
After all, Ross' former team, the Marlins, will not be playing after Sunday, and he was basking in the glow of his first postseason visit -- with the Giants.
"It's hard when a team claims you and your old team just lets you go," Ross said. "I guess I'm having the last laugh. I'm here."
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.