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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Back to Work: Spring Training opens Friday

The date we've all been waiting for since the 2013 season ended is finally upon us. Giants' pitchers and catchers will be reporting to spring training Friday with the positional players following shortly after as they try and get back on track after a disappointing display last year.

There will be a couple of new faces playing prominent roles for the 2014 club that weren't here in 2013, but for the most part the Giants will be relying on much of the same recipe that landed them a World Championship in 2012, then saw them finish 10 games below .500 a season ago. Regardless of how good of additions Michael Morse and Tim Hudson end up being, in order for the Giants to get back to the success they saw in 2012 they'll need their core players to rebound from sub-par showings in 2013. First and foremost, that responsibility lies with the pitching staff, particularly the starting rotation. The only guy that should be satisfied by their personal performance last summer is Madison Bumgarner. Everyone else should be coming in to 2014 with a chip on their shoulder. That includes Matt Cain, although he did start to look like himself in the second half last year after a horrendous first few months, and Tim Lincecum, who's struggled with consistency the last two seasons. Those two are the guys that hold the keys to the Giants success in 2014, at least within the starting rotation. Madison Bumgarner will be fine, Tim Hudson should be that rock-solid veteran presence we're all expecting him to be (health permitting), and Ryan Vogelsong should be fine in the fifth spot based on his finish to 2013. This rotation can be great again, as good as in 2010 and 2011, but Cain and Lincecum need to pitch like "The Horse" and "The Franchise" in order for it to happen.

As we've seen the past several years, this team goes by way of the starting pitching and that's the reason why they'll be so crucial in 2014 and under the microscope this spring. However, it wasn't just the Giants starting pitching that took a hit last summer. Their everyday lineup, outside of a strong year from Hunter Pence and some solid growth from Brandon Belt, was largely unimpressive last year as well. The two guys that I'm really looking at for bounce-back 2014 seasons are Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey. Pablo's new slimmed down look will hopefully help keep him off the DL and on the field more often in 2014. The improved conditioning coupled with it being a contract year has all signs pointing toward a career rejuvenation in 2014 for the 27 year-old. He knows if he performs like he did in 2009 and 2011, he'll have a large payday waiting for him next winter, which should be plenty of incentive to keep the weight off, which is the real challenge with Panda. As for Posey, many are blaming 2012's large, extended workload after his injury shortened 2011 as reason for his fall-off in 2013 and he's been working on adding strength to help keep him spry for the full 6-month marathon this winter. While expecting another MVP-type season from the superstar backstop may not be realistic, I think a return to a .300/20/90/.900 line would be just fine for the All-Star backstop. Improved health with Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan should help as well, but Panda and Posey can really make this offense a strength if they're on.

Cain, Lincecum, Sandoval and Posey are the four key figures that I'll be watching closest as we start the 6 week journey towards opening day Friday, but there's obviously plenty more going on. We'll start diving into the upcoming spring battles, and examine some other key areas for the 2014 season in the coming days as full-squad workouts start next week. Time to dust off the cobwebs of winter folks, baseball's back!

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The Giants Baseball Blog
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1 Comments:

  • At 5:57 PM, Anonymous CP30 said…

    I agree 110%, If Cain and Timmy are good again and Posey and Panda are all-stars the Giants will be ok. I have some Q's about the pen though. I'm worried Sergio won't hold up two seasons in a row as closer, just a gut feeling.

     

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