SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Bruce Bochy’s first glimpse at his overhauled roster gives him hope the Giants will feature a lineup much like the ones of several seasons ago – back when his club was capturing World Series championships every other year.
He will be managing a new outfield. Well, with Hunter Pence moving from left to right to make room for Andrew McCutchen. And a new third baseman in Evan Longoria. And that’s not to mention all the reliable returners such as Gold Glove shortstop Brandon Crawford, aces Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto, and closer Mark Melancon eager to have a bounce-back year.
Bochy is confident he has the roster, depth and talent to rebound right away.
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”We feel like we can play with anybody,” he said.
Longoria isn’t sugar-coating anything as the Giants try to rebound from a 64-98 season and overtake the World Series runner-up Los Angeles Dodgers, who have won the past five NL West crowns.
”It’s tough to win only 64 games, it really is. That’s a tough year,” Longoria said. ”Of all the years, we’ve had some bad years, that’s a bad year. So I think the feeling is we’ve made the appropriate changes along with having the mainstays who are here for a long time and are committed to this organization … just (having) that belief that last year was not what this organization is all about.”
Here are some things to watch for with the Giants:
NEW LOOK: While San Francisco signed Austin Jackson as a center-field option, the Giants envision him as more a utility outfielder. That means to fit with the Giants mainstays. That means 24-year-old prospect Steven Duggar could get a chance in center.
”It’s good when you see the kind of turn over that has happened this year, positive turnover, not getting rid of anybody that’s been here a long time and you’re adding some players that you believe can make an impact right now,” Longoria said.
BACK TO HEALTH: First baseman Brandon Belt ended last year fully cleared for his regular offseason routine after he a concussion that sidelined him from Aug. 4 on.
In addition, Bumgarner missed nearly three months following an April 20 dirt bike accident on an off day in Colorado.
Cueto was limited to 25 starts because of injuries.
”When you lose your 1 and 2 starters for an extended period of time during a season it’s tough for any team to put up a good year,” Crawford said. ”Hopefully they can be healthy at the start of the season and go all the way through the season this next year. As bad as our year was this past year I think we always have a shot with those two at the front of our rotation.”
THEY’RE SET: If the infield stays healthy, the Giants should play superb defense behind their strong pitching staff – starting with Crawford.
He knows everybody is eager for a fresh start in 2018.
”It was definitely a tough season on the field, off the field,” he said.
A few other familiar faces will be back with the organization for spring: pitcher Chris Heston, outfielder Gregor Blanco and catcher Hector Sanchez.
OPEN SPOTS: The Giants missed out in their push to get both Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani. Also, San Francisco has options for the fourth and fifth starter spots behind Bumgarner, Cueto and Jeff Samardzija after Matt Moore was traded to Texas in December and Matt Cain retired.
Ty Blach is a likely choice and has shown he can handle the load after going 8-12 with a 4.78 ERA in 24 starts and 34 total outings, while Chris Stratton went 4-4 with a 3.68 ERA in 10 starts and 13 appearances.
San Francisco still could add a reliever.
ON DECK: San Francisco revamped its entire coaching staff, so that will make things interesting early in spring. The Giants reassigned longtime pitching coach Dave Righetti to special assistant to the general manager, working under Bobby Evans.
Former hitting coach Hensley Meulens is now bench coach, while Ron Wotus moved from bench coach to third base coach. Ex-Astros assistant hitting coach Alonzo Powell replaces Meulens.
”Change is hard,” Bochy said.
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