Giants gear up for tough task of defending title

Andres Torres checked out the banner at the main entrance to

Scottsdale Stadium blaring ”2012 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS” and knew

he was back in the right place.

The outgoing outfielder bounced through the clubhouse Tuesday

morning, sporting a beanie for the cool desert weather after

batting practice and some running. He offered handshakes and hugs

as he said hello to all the familiar faces he missed spending one

season away with the New York Mets following three in San

Francisco.

Now, Torres will play alongside the guy the Giants traded him

for last offseason: center fielder Angel Pagan.

San Francisco features a close-knit cast of Latino players,

including World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval, the re-signed Pagan,

second baseman Marco Scutaro and outfielder Gregor Blanco. And

Torres already fits right back in with that group.

”Oh, I’m really happy, so happy to be back,” said Torres, who

will play for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. ”This is

where I feel good. This is home for me. I’m excited to be back with

the guys. I know Pagan, Blanco and Scutaro. It’s a great group. I’m

ready to go.”

The Giants won another World Series crown last year while Torres

was away, though he attended some playoff games at AT&T Park to

cheer his former, and now current, club. Reliever Ramon Ramirez,

another member of the 2010 title team who went to the Mets in that

same swap, also is back after agreeing to a minor league deal with

San Francisco last week.

The champion feeling is everywhere at the team’s spring training

site. Several dozen fans lined the gate where players walk in for

work. Boxes full of fresh T-shirts, pennants and hats were unloaded

in the team store. Hitting coach Hensley ”Bam Bam” Meulens

sported a black T-shirt on Tuesday with orange writing that read

”Kings Wear Rings” with an image of a sparkly championship

ring.

When Meulens snapped a picture of the shirt and sent it to his

brother, he arrived home to see family members in the same one

after a speedy visit to a silkscreener.

”Like 25 people had it,” Meulens said. ”I got home and they

all were wearing it. It was pretty cool.”

Longtime visiting clubhouse manager Harvey Hodgerney has new ink

from last month on his left calf with the 2012 World Series

champions logo to go along with the tattoo he got on his right leg

following the 2010 title.

”It’s unbelievable, two World Series championships in three

years,” reliever Santiago Casilla said. ”I feel so happy, so

proud, because nobody believed. God put his eyes on the

Giants.”

Many of the Giants’ position players already were at the stadium

ahead of the first full-squad workout Saturday.

”That’s always a great sign,” manager Bruce Bochy said. ”This

is as good a place as you can have to work out, with the cages and

the workout room, so a lot of them like to come in early and some

we wanted to come in early to get a head start. But most of them

came in on their own.”

Right fielder Hunter Pence is one of those guys eager to get

started.

He begins his first spring with the Giants after being dealt

from the Phillies at last summer’s trade deadline.

”It’s a new year, it’s a new league, it’s not the same,” Pence

said. ”It’s great to have the group that went through what we went

through last year. I’m just very grateful, grateful to be a

part.”

Torres and Blanco could wind up platooning in left field, and

Bochy said he has no problem with Torres taking time away to play

in the WBC while he’s competing for a job. If it was somebody else,

somebody Bochy didn’t know well, things might be different.

The manager and Torres stayed in touch during the free agency

period before Torres signed a $2 million, one-year contract in

December.

”He’s a Giant at heart,” Bochy said. ”We know Andres.”

Bochy brought a similar message on Day 1 to what he offered two

springs ago after the franchise’s first World Series title since

moving West in 1958 from New York. San Francisco failed to make the

playoffs in 2011 after a rough September.

He wants his players to enjoy the feeling of being reigning

champions, keep the memories and remember how difficult it is to

get to the top – and remember the work it takes to stay there.

”They were a very unselfish group and had so much unity, the

really cared about each other and set aside their own agenda and

asked what’s best for the club,” he said. ”They had one goal in

mind, it was a common goal throughout the club, and that was to get

to the postseason and hopefully win a world championship, which

they did.”

Now, other teams will be eager to bring down the Giants after

two titles in three years. Bochy got a little glimpse, a preview of

sorts, with how he was treated when out and about during the

December winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn.

”The only difference I probably saw a little bit, at the winter

meetings the first year a lot of people came out and said,

`Congratulations!’ and the second time you do it, they’re mad at

you,” he said. ”’Hey, that’s enough, you’re ball hogging

now.”’

Notes: Sandoval hardly had a voice Tuesday as he nurses a cold.

That didn’t keep Kung Fu Panda from taking his swings in the cage

beyond the center-field wall. ”I’m sick,” he said. Bochy believes

Sandoval is near the end of his illness and will be full strength

by Saturday’s first full-squad workout. … Bochy ”has a pretty

good idea” on the identify of his opening day starter will be but

plans to meet with pitching coach Dave Righetti and tell the player

before announcing it. … Bochy: ”We’re like the players, we come

in here and we have to get in shape, too.” With condensed spring

training because of World Baseball Classic, Bochy said his pitchers

will ”be happy to cut out one play – the third to first move.”

… Pagan and LHP Javier Lopez also are on Puerto Rico’s WBC

team.