Giants gear up for wild first weekend at home
The San Francisco Giants' slow start likely will mean little this weekend. The anguish and torture that became so familiar to fans with all the close games during last season's remarkable run to the World Series can be forgotten for a few days at least.
It will be a jam-packed opening series with three sellouts against St. Louis at AT&T Park. The reigning champions will raise the winning flag Friday in their first home game, receive their championship rings Saturday night with Commissioner Bud Selig in the house, and recognize Rookie of the Year catcher Buster Posey in a pregame ceremony on Sunday.
And, possibly adding to the frenzy of the coming days: a potential verdict in the perjury trial of home run king Barry Bonds.
''For a couple of games there's going to be a lot of hoopla. We know that,'' manager Bruce Bochy said. ''It's going to be special, too, to have our opening day.''
The Giants headed into Thursday's off day at 2-4 with all the losses by two or fewer runs, far from the kind of start they would have hoped for with their roster nearly intact from that special postseason last fall.
Especially considering all the games have been against the NL West - Los Angeles and San Diego, the team the Giants beat on the final day of the 2010 regular season to clinch their first division title and playoff berth since 2003.
Bearded closer and last season's major league saves leader Brian Wilson is back after being activated from the disabled list Wednesday, so he certainly will draw his share of cheers and lookalikes in the stands.
Left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, who won a career-best 13 games in 2010, is thrilled to make his second straight start in the home opener and as eager as everybody else for the ring ceremony ''just to get it on my finger.''
He also knows the Giants need to stay focused on playing.
''It's a new year, a new season. We've got to work. We've got to win this year,'' he said. ''We've got to work harder, because there's going to be a lot of teams out there that want to beat us. We're just going to bring the same thing we did last year to this year and go from there.''
On Sunday, past Giants Rookie of the Year Award winners will throw out the ceremonial first pitch, including Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey.
If the Giants' first exhibition game in their waterfront ballpark March 28 is any indication - with more than 38,000 in attendance for an all-Bay Area matchup with the Oakland Athletics - everybody is eager to celebrate the city's first World Series title for as long as possible. The Giants captured their first crown since moving West in 1958 and first overall since the New York team won in '54.
''I'm sure the guys are looking forward to getting home, to get the rings and have the excitement that goes with it,'' Bochy said. ''But I think as much as that is just to get home and get a chance to get settled in and get organized.
''We have to enjoy the moment. They've earned that, so have some fun with it. But at the same time, you've got to put your so-called game faces on. That's got to be in the back of your minds, too, that these games are important. We need to play well. We need to play better.''
San Francisco's season-opening homestand continues with three games against the rival Dodgers starting Monday.
The Giants will dedicate that first game with Los Angeles to fan Bryan Stow, who was attacked outside Dodger Stadium after San Francisco's season opener on March 31. The 42-year-old paramedic and father of two from Santa Cruz has shown signs of brain damage after suffering a severe skull fracture and bad bruising to his brain's frontal lobes, according to doctors.
The team, along with Stow's employer, American Medical Response, will partner to collect donations at the gates and throughout the ballpark for The Bryan Stow Fund. The Giants said they would make an initial $10,000 contribution to the cause, while their community service organization - the Giants Community Fund - also will hold a silent auction during Monday's game with all proceeds going to the fund for Stow.
''Bryan is a father, paramedic and lifelong Giants fan who has dedicated himself to caring for others. Now he needs our support as he fights for his life following this brutal and unconscionable act of violence,'' Giants managing partner Bill Neukom said.
AP Sports Writer Bernie Wilson contributed to this story.