Champs in festive mood while getting reacquainted
Giants start camp with 21 of 25 members of postseason roster in Arizona
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Whoever said that familiarity breeds contempt didn't know much about the Giants.
The reigning World Series champions, who also captured the title in 2010, are prepared to strive for their third title in four seasons with essentially the same crew that swept the Detroit Tigers in four Fall Classic games last October. Twenty-one members of the 25-man postseason roster have returned. And one of San Francisco's most significant offseason additions was a key component of the '10 team -- outfielder Andres Torres, who spent last year with the Mets.
On Tuesday, as pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training, a festive mood filled Scottsdale Stadium's home clubhouse even while players busied themselves with physical examinations or light workouts. The presence of several position players -- shortstop Brandon Crawford, first baseman Brandon Belt, third baseman Pablo Sandoval, outfielders Hunter Pence and Gregor Blanco -- deepened the sense that the team was coming together again.
"This is what you miss the most in the offseason," left-hander Javier Lopez said. "You miss the clubhouse; you miss the camaraderie. It's nice to be back and be able to shoot the bull with each other. There are so many familiar faces that are back, we're kind of picking up where we left off. It's nice to see the new haircuts and style trends and see who's driving what."
Torres, who joined the contingent of position players appearing at the ballpark to work out informally, lightened the clubhouse atmosphere even more with his buoyant spirit.
"He shakes everybody's hand three times," Lopez said.
Pitchers and catchers will begin formal workouts Wednesday. Position players report Friday, one day before the first full-squad workout. San Francisco launches Cactus League play on Feb. 23, against the Angels.
A large number of Giants already have begun training at the Scottsdale Stadium complex, partly out of enthusiasm and partly necessity. Ten Major Leaguers are on their respective countries' provisional rosters for the World Baseball Classic, requiring them to accelerate their efforts to get into playing shape. San Francisco's probable Classic participants are: left-hander Jeremy Affeldt and right-hander Ryan Vogelsong (United States); Sandoval, second baseman Marco Scutaro and left-hander Jose Mijares (Venezuela); center fielder Angel Pagan, Lopez and Torres (Puerto Rico); right-hander Santiago Casilla (Dominican Republic); and right-hander Sergio Romo (Mexico). Additionally, non-roster catcher Tyler LaTorre is on Italy's roster.
The Giants' personnel pool will remain deep after the Classic participants depart in early March. San Francisco has 37 pitchers in camp, including 17 non-roster invitees, to help consume the Cactus League innings that the six Classic-bound pitchers ordinarily would throw. That non-roster group includes right-hander Brett Bochy, manager Bruce Bochy's son, who excelled last year in 41 appearances at Double-A Richmond (7-3, 2.53 ERA, 14 saves, 0.88 WHIP and 69 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings).
"It's going to be great to see him," Bruce Bochy said. "It's a little added stress I didn't need, but it's good to have him here. I'm proud of him. He's worked hard to get to this point. He has earned this invite with the job that he did last year."
Had the Giants elected to re-sign free-agent closer Brian Wilson, who underwent his second Tommy John surgery last April, his every move would have been scrutinized. But the Giants -- and apparently all other Major League teams -- want to wait until Wilson's recovery progresses before negotiating seriously with the right-hander. Wilson's absence leaves this camp devoid of injury-related drama, though left-hander Eric Surkamp (elbow) is working toward pitching competitively by July.
Overall, the Giants are content to reacquaint themselves with each other and revive that winning feeling, which seems to have remained close at hand an offseason after another parade. Because the Giants have never taken anything for granted. They know their ensemble is a special one, explaining why general manager Brian Sabean and his staff placed considerable emphasis on retaining free agents Affeldt, Pagan and Scutaro. Sabean pointed out that instead of breeding complacency, the club's recent success has demonstrated "how difficult it is to get a group together that works so well with the manager and coaching staff, and with each other."
The time for maintaining that effort has arrived.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.