Giants hope to bounce back in tough NL West
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) From every slot in a talented, experienced rotation to the back end of the bullpen and in between, to the starting fielders and the role players on the bench, it’s hard to find a member of the San Francisco Giants pleased with his 2013 season.
A year after winning the World Series, the Giants finished 10 games under .500, third in the NL West and they missed the playoffs.
”We don’t even have to have the conversation, a lot of the guys know it,” right-hander Matt Cain said. ”We didn’t pitch the way that we wanted to.”
As the Giants begin a new year, they will try to keep up with the big-spending Los Angeles Dodgers and regain the grip they had on the NL West when the club won World Series championships in 2010 and `12 – even if everybody expects the Dodgers to be the team to beat.
”You do try to reflect back and try to learn from what happened last year and how you can get better,” manager Bruce Bochy said. ”You move forward, that’s what we had to do. There are some things we’ll talk about in the spring, mistakes that we made last year. Also, hopefully guys come in with an attitude, that they weren’t happy with what happened the year before and want to get back on track.”
Buster Posey certainly doesn’t want to spend too much time thinking about last season.
”That’s probably how everybody feels. There’s a bad taste in a lot of guys’ mouths,” Posey said. ”We want to come out and focus on winning ballgames.”
Here are five things to watch as the Giants prepare to open the season:
TIM SQUARED: Tim Hudson and Tim Lincecum are eager to start fresh from tough seasons, Hudson after a devastating ankle injury and Lincecum trying to prove he can rediscover his old dominant form.
Both hard-throwing right-handers will need to bounce back with big years if the Giants are to contend. Both signed for two years – the 38-year-old Hudson for $23 million and Lincecum for $35 million.
MAMMOTH MORSE: If Michael Morse can show the same kind of power he did during his career-best 2011 season in Washington, the Giants know they have a talented run producer in the middle of the order to complement Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval.
”It’s going to be a pretty good lineup having him in there because somebody’s going to be hitting seventh who’s not accustomed to it,” Bochy said.
Morse missed time in 2013 with a broken right pinkie and strained right quadriceps before returning from the disabled list in late July. The nine-year veteran batted .215 with 13 home runs and 27 RBIs in 88 games between the Mariners and Orioles.
”It’s been tough. Injuries are something you can’t predict,” Morse said. ”You just try to keep playing hard and stay on the field. That’s my main goal.”
PAGAN’S HEALTH: Bochy has repeatedly said how much San Francisco missed the speed and aggressiveness of center fielder Angel Pagan in the leadoff spot – not to mention on defense.
He has dealt with a stiff back this spring, while second baseman Marco Scutaro also has been ailing with his own back trouble.
BUMGARNER LEADS THE WAY: As the only San Francisco starter with a winning record last year, lefty Madison Bumgarner must try to duplicate his impressive 2013 season and then some. Bochy named him opening day starter – Bumgarner’s first such nod – early on at spring training. Bumgarner earned his first All-Star selection last year, going 13-9 with a 2.77 ERA in 31 starts and 201 1-3 innings.
Despite the big names – Hudson, Lincecum, Cain – Bumgarner will help lead this group.
”From what I have seen, everybody seems to be getting locked in and ready to go,” Bumgarner said. ”Everybody is getting to where they want to be. Team chemistry is good – it has always been good since I’ve been here.”
SANDOVAL’S YEAR: Slugging third baseman Pablo Sandoval lost significant weight yet again, and he hopes to keep it off for good as he enters a contract year prepared to prove he can be the steady hitter he was two years ago. The 27-year-old Sandoval won the World Series MVP in 2012, highlighted by a three-homer Game 1 against the Tigers.
”It’s a big year for him,” Bochy said. ”We think it’s a big year for us with the players we have on this club. You need everybody doing their job, doing their thing. He’s a big part of this club. To have him in this kind of shape it’s going to be nice.”