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Q and A with Giants GM Brian Sabean

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Ken Rosenthal

Ken Rosenthal has been the FOXSports.com's Senior MLB Writer since August 2005. He appears weekly on MLB on FOX, FOX Sports Radio and MLB Network. He's a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter.

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The Giants are back.

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Q: Randy Johnson has been on the disabled list since July 6 with a left shoulder strain. How is he doing? A: We'll test him when we get back home. He's in Arizona rehabbing. We don't know when he'll be able to throw. With each day that passes, you wonder what he'll be able to do when he gets the ball in his hands. To me, it's something we can't really count on. Q: Which position will Pablo Sandoval play long-term? A: At this point in time, he's our third baseman. What happens down the line is up to him. But he has to be open to what our needs are. He also could be above-average at catcher or first base. You watch him move around, it belies his look. He's pretty athletic, quick for his body type. Q: Early thoughts on Freddy Sanchez? With all the scouting reports, all the video you have (of him as an opponent), when you watch him every day, you can understand why he's won a batting title, why he's so adept at second base. He's got a clock for what he wants to do at home plate, what he needs to do in the field. He puts the bat on the ball, does what (a) situation dictates. He has power, a nose for RBI situations. He's as good at moving the ball around as anybody I've ever seen. Q: What are you going to do at catcher? Buster Posey is your top position prospect and was your first-round pick in 2008. Bengie Molina is your cleanup hitter and a free agent at the end of the season. A: We'll let it play out. Bengie has been our fourth hitter the last two years. At that position, he's still one of the better run producers. Posey is in Triple A. To me, that's a world away for a kid who is a year out of college. We'll address it at the end of the year, look at both options.

— Ken Rosenthal, FOXSports.com

Not back to the Bonds-ian magnificence of 2002, when they nearly won the World Series. But back to being relevant, which — after back-to-back 90-loss seasons in '07 and '08 — is a good place to start. The franchise's revival might be occurring just in time for general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy, both of whom are in the final years of their contracts under a new managing general partner, Bill Neukom. Then again, the turnaround also is a direct reflection of the work of both Sabean and Bochy — particularly Sabean, who had to adopt a short-term vision during Barry Bonds' tenure, then shift to a longer view. The Giants are 1-1/2 games back in the wild-card race and 6-1/2 back in the NL West race entering their weekend series against the Mets (Saturday, MLB on Fox, 4:10 p.m. ET.) Sabean, the Giants' GM since Sept. 30, 1996, addressed the team's past, present and future — as well as his own situation — in a telephone interview Thursday with FOXSports.com. Q: In your mind, is this just the beginning? A: We would hope so. We've got some kids in the wings who are close to being up here next year. We're going to follow suit with it, knowing that if we can pitch, in relative terms, we're going to have a chance to be in most every game and most every series in most seasons. We'll continue to build from within with this group of position players. At the same time, we'll also need to go outside. Our fans have been patient. Our ownership has given us the latitude to do it this way. It's kind of been a relief. Q: How satisfying has this season been thus far? A: We saw signs of life last year, the last six weeks with some of the younger kids. We changed the overall approach, per se, knowing we would have to pitch, play defense, rely on situational hitting. It was going to be a process. The pitching is better than expected. The defense is above-average. The offense is pretty much what we knew we were getting into. We don't have prototypical 3-4-5 hitters, though (Pablo) Sandoval would be third on a lot of teams. Q: What would make the season a success? A: If we can play meaningful games in September and go down to the wire and have a chance to be the wild-card team. Who knows? We may even challenge for the division. It puts us ahead of schedule. We haven't played meaningful games in a few years. We haven't made the playoffs since '03. We want to seize the opportunity. It's not going to be easy. The Dodgers certainly are the best team in our league. And when you're in a wild-card race with five or six teams, it changes every couple of days and will probably go down to the last week. Q: You drafted Tim Lincecum with the 10th overall pick in 2006. How much internal debate was there about selecting him? A: I'm not saying this with arrogance. But we've been pretty good, with (vice president of player personnel) Dick Tidrow at the lead, drafting kids talented enough to be impactful as starters at a young age, moreso in the higher rounds. We've made our living drafting pitching (Matt Cain was the team's first-round pick in '02). We've used some of 'em for trade pieces. Dick was so convinced. When things were going down to the wire in Tim's (junior) season, the Pac-10 playoffs, he begged me not to go see him so we could keep our profile low. He had pretty much made up his mind. To him, it wasn't a question of whether we were going to draft him. It was a matter of whether he would fall to us. Q: Is Lincecum one of your all-time favorites? A: He's such a dynamo because of his appearance and his approach. He's so humble, but confident. He knows his place in time, how fortunate he is. He has huge respect for people in the game — the fans, the media, his teammates, what it means to be a major-league baseball player. It's a rarity. Then to think about that size and him being so dominant ... if you look up the show-stopping guys who are No. 1 pitchers, they usually don't come in this fashion. And he knows he's the go-to guy. Look at (Wednesday, when Lincecum went 8-2/3 innings against the Dodgers in a game the Giants won in 10 innings, 4-2). The night before, we had gotten thumped (9-1). But when our guys walked into the clubhouse, everyone knew he was going to pitch and that we were probably going to win the game. You can't say that about many guys, especially someone so young. Q: Looking back, how difficult was it trying to put a team together around Bonds? A: We all learned. In hindsight, we needed a high-profile player around Barry to take the pressure off him, help out more, be the next guy in line. It's something that just didn't come to fruition. That's the lesson. With all due respect, the Red Sox's past (teams), the Yankees during their runs, they didn't just have one high-profile guy. They had at least two. That's what we needed. We couldn't figure that out, get that accomplished ... After (Jeff) Kent left as a free agent (following the 2002 season), the landscape changed. Q: How difficult was it as a GM knowing that with Bonds, you had to sacrifice the future for the present? A: The toughest thing is, if you've got someone like Barry, how do you tell everyone you're trying to win but trying to develop at the same time? We really couldn't do that. We overdrafted pitching. It's something we were successful at. But by the same token to get a premium position player, you've got to draft high. In those days, we were finishing high and drafting low. You're not going to produce position players fast enough that way. Our fans were spoiled. You weren't going to say, 'Give us time, we've got Barry.' And by the same token, you don't know what Barry's appetite would have been to be on that kind of (developing) team. Q: OK, back to the present. How concerned are you about both your own future and Bochy's? A: I'm not concerned. We love the organization. We've got it moving in the right direction. I do believe there is genuine interest in bringing both of us back. It certainly is Bill's decision. It's Bill's right as a first-time managing general partner. We would love to be here. But we're not afraid of the dark, either. Until the shoe drops, you really don't know. It'll play out in due time. It's one of those things where the more you've been through it — and I've been through it a few times — you realize the less you control it. We've had a change in regime. They've had due time to evaluate the people at hand, some of the things that were put in motion, how it's turning out. Our report card to me is fine. But I'm not going to speak for people.
Tagged: Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, Mets, Giants, Tim Lincecum, Pablo Sandoval

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