Monday, February 7, 2011

Chris Haft Says...The Giants poised to Repeat

SAN FRANCISCO -- William Shakespeare wouldn't have written "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown" had he foreseen the Giants' reaction to their first World Series triumph since 1954.
The Giants are anything but uneasy as they prepare to head for Spring Training in Scottsdale, Ariz. They and their still-delirious fans cannot be accused of taking their first San Francisco-era championship for granted. The World Series trophy has been displayed throughout California and even in New York, where the franchise was based until it moved West before the 1958 season. The team, in general, and center fielder Andres Torres, in particular, will be the subjects of documentaries. Cody Ross and Buster Posey served as grand marshals in parades thrown by their respective hometowns.
Now, it's back to work. Most of these Giants know nothing about the challenge of repeating as titlists. But they do realize that confronting stubborn, hungry opponents will be a daily occurrence.
"In a way, I kind of feel like we took everybody by surprise," right-hander Sergio Romo said. "They're going to know more about us. It's not going to be that way again."
Thus, the Giants will spend six weeks in Arizona preparing themselves, physically and mentally, for the task that awaits them.
Entering Spring Training with largely the same roster as last year, the Giants don't appear to have many moves to make. But competition for the few openings that exist promises to be spirited and should erode all lingering compacency, if any still exists. 

Pitchers and catchers report 
Feb. 14 
Full squad reports
Feb. 18
First Spring Training game
Home vs. D-backs, Feb. 25, 12:05 p.m.
Opening Day
Away vs. Dodgers, April 1, 7:10 p.m.

Triple play: Three questions that need answers
1. Will Pablo Sandoval be fit to play?
The answer seems to be an unqualified yes. Sandoval looked downright svelte in a recent photograph of him standing waist-deep in a swimming pool. He obviously was listening when management threatened to send him to Triple-A if he didn't shape up during the offseason. Since a well-conditioned Sandoval likely will be productive, the Giants ought to feel thrilled.
2. Who will play left field?
Much depends on rookie Brandon Belt, who has been billed as this year's Buster Posey. Belt can play either outfield corner, but he's better at first base. If the Giants decide to play Belt at first, Aubrey Huff almost surely would man left field, where he started 24 games last year. But Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand and Nate Schierholtz will push for playing time at this spot.
3. Can the Giants repeat?
First thing's first: Can the Giants win the National League West? There's no reason they can't, especially with their pitching. San Francisco should be tested by Colorado, which may have the most talent in the division, and the Dodgers, who find a way to be competitive more often than not.
2010 record
92-70, first in the NL West

Projected batting order
1. CF Andres Torres:
  .268 BA, .343 OBP, .479 SLG, 16 HR, 63 RBI in 2010
2. 2B Freddy Sanchez:
  .292 BA, .342 OBP, .397 SLG, 7 HR, 47 RBI in 2010
3. LF Aubrey Huff:
  .290 BA, .385 OBP, .506 SLG, 26 HR, 86 RBI in 2010
4. C Buster Posey:
  .305 BA, .357 OBP, .505 SLG, 18 HR, 67 RBI in 2010
5. 3B Pablo Sandoval:
  .268 BA, .323 OBP, .409 SLG, 13 HR, 63 RBI in 2010
6. SS Miguel Tejada:
  .269 BA, .312 OBP, .381 SLG, 15 HR, 71 RBI in 2010
7. 1B Brandon Belt:
  .352 BA, .455 OBP, .620 SLG, 23 HR, 112 RBI in Minors in 2010
8. RF Cody Ross:
  .269 BA, .322 OBP, .413 SLG, 14 HR, 65 RBI in 2010

Projected rotation
1. Tim Lincecum, 16-10, 3.43 ERA in 2010
2. Matt Cain, 13-11, 3.14 ERA in 2010
3. Jonathan Sanchez, 13-9, 3.07 ERA in 2010
4. Madison Bumgarner, 7-6, 3.00 ERA in 2010
5. Barry Zito, 9-14, 4.15 ERA in 2010

Projected bullpen
Closer: Brian Wilson, 48/53 saves, 1.81 ERA in 2010
RH setup man: Sergio Romo, 2.18 ERA in 2010
LH setup man: Jeremy Affeldt, 4.14 ERA in 2010

The new guys
SS Miguel Tejada: The 14-year veteran will turn 37 during the season, so it's fair to wonder how much he has left. But Tejada typically performs with a lot of energy, and he seemed thrilled to join the reigning World Series champs. The Giants will be overjoyed if Tejada remotely approaches his .287 career batting average and .801 lifetime slugging percentage.
RHP Jeff Suppan: The most accomplished of the Giants' non-roster invitees represents insurance in case a member of the talented starting rotation sustains an injury. Suppan has recorded a 4.95 ERA in the last four seasons, which he spent mostly in the hitter-friendly confines of Milwaukee's Miller Park. Pitching for the Giants should be less stressful.

Prospects to watch
1B-LF Brandon Belt: Scouts from opposing teams join the chorus of Giants officials, including general manager Brian Sabean, in praising Belt profusely. If they're correct, Belt definitely will crack the starting lineup; it's just a matter of when. Sabean has repeated that Belt, 22, won't open the season with San Francisco unless he's starting, which makes perfect sense.
SS Brandon Crawford: Considered San Francisco's shortstop of the future, Crawford needs at least another year of Minor League seasoning, and he'll get it due to Tejada's presence. Crawford has decent range and good speed, and the left-handed swinger has shown hints of power, which further intrigues the Giants.
CF Gary Brown: The Giants want to get a long look at Brown, last year's first-round selection in the First-Year Player Draft. Ideally, he fits a leadoff hitter's profile, but some skeptics believe that he lacks the power to drive pitches into the gaps and won't draw enough walks.
C Tommy Joseph: At 19, Joseph will be the youngest player in camp as a non-roster invitee. He played at low-Class A Augusta last season and made the South Atlantic League All-Star team while batting .236 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs. Some believe that first base will be Joseph's ultimate home.

On the rebound
LHP Barry Zito: The 2002 American League Cy Young Award winner was left off the active roster during each round of the postseason after losing 10 of his last 11 decisions. He failed to reach double figures in victories for the first time in 10 full seasons. Expect a thoroughly determined Zito to arrive in Scottsdale.
OF Aaron Rowand: While losing his everyday role to Andres Torres, Rowand hit a career-low .230 and appeared in 105 games, the third-fewest in his career. His 76 starts represented his lowest single-season total since he had 39 in 2003 with the White Sox. Primarily a center fielder, Rowand could join the left-field competition in an effort to revive his fortunes. He's also likely to be mentioned in trade rumors, though his $12 million salary makes him difficult to unload.
LHP Jeremy Affeldt: The reliever posted a 4.14 ERA last season, more than doubling his remarkable 1.73 figure from 2009. In fairness, Affeldt couldn't have been expected to duplicate what would have been a career year for almost anybody. He salvaged his 2010 campaign with two scoreless innings in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series after an injury-plagued regular season. He's fit and optimistic now.

Long gone
INF Juan Uribe: One of the Giants' most productive clutch hitters last year took a three-year, $21 million deal from the rival Dodgers. The Giants' primary shortstop in 2010, Uribe batted only .248, but his 24 homers and 85 RBIs ranked second on the club. The Giants also will miss Uribe's versatility, which enabled him to play every infield spot except first base.
SS Edgar Renteria: He'll forever be remembered in San Francisco for his three-run homer off Texas ace Cliff Lee that accounted for the Giants' scoring in Game 5 of the World Series and enabled them to win the title. Renteria spurned the Giants' one-year, $1 million offer to take a more lucrative deal from Cincinnati.
RHP Chris Ray: Acquired from Texas in the Bengie Molina trade, Ray pitched capably (3-0, one save, 4.13 ERA in 28 appearances) but was left off all postseason rosters. He signed with the Seattle Mariners, who likely will give him a more significant role.

Mark DeRosa is a huge X Factor for the 2011 Giants.  Can he replace Juan Uribe?

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