Giants look to end championship trend
SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Giants lost Pablo Sandoval to big money and the Boston Red Sox. They missed out paying big money to left-hander Jon Lester, who instead signed with the Chicago Cubs.
While the reigning World Series champions are ready to shed that every-other-year title trend, plenty of people wonder whether general manager Brian Sabean and his staff did enough during the offseason to stay near the top in the talented NL West.
Ask manager Bruce Bochy and his players, and they consider the additions of healthy right-hander Matt Cain and center fielder Angel Pagan back into the mix as a big deal right up there with signing a prized free agent.
And, of course, they have World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner ready to build off his remarkable postseason.
As he addressed the team at the start of spring training, Bochy reminded the Giants that it's hard to win consistently year after year.
"We had a great year last year," Bochy said. "We have to go about our business and get ready for a new year. We'll still enjoy and savor those memories but at the same time it's time for us to get ready. ... Your lock on success is as good as that last game, so we've got to get after it."
Durable right fielder Hunter Pence is sidelined with a broken left forearm that could keep him out until early May, while left fielder Nori Aoki will join the team he lost to in last year's Fall Classic while with the Kansas City Royals.
Casey McGehee, traded to San Francisco from the Marlins, will take over at third base with Sandoval's departure on a $95 million, five-year contract to Boston. He has said he won't try to replace the formerly popular Kung Fu Panda.
"I feel like we get a lot of flak for not doing anything this offseason," shortstop Brandon Crawford said. "We got Aoki, we got McGehee. We have Cain coming back healthy that I think a lot of people forget. We've got Pagan coming back healthy. It's almost like getting four new guys."
Bochy joked to Aoki — whom he calls "a catalyst" — about hitting 30 home runs. The speedy Japanese outfielder responded, "24."
"We're playing for a championship," Aoki said. "It's a passionate group of guys."
Here are some things to look for with the Giants, who have captured three World Series titles in the past five years:
BUMGARNER'S NEXT STEP: Bumgarner threw 270 innings, including 21 with two wins and a save in the World Series.
He went 4-1 during the postseason following an 18-10 regular season. From his four-hit, 10-strikeout gem that got things started in an 8-0 wild-card win at Pittsburgh all the way through his brilliant relief outing in Game 7 of the World Series to beat the Royals, Bumgarner became one of the postseason's best pitchers ever.
"I think he'll be comfortable in his skin," pitching coach Dave Righetti said.
HUDSON'S HURRAH: This is it for Tim Hudson, who has said he will retire after his 17th major league season.
He won his first championship last year, advancing out of the first round for the first time.
Now, the 39-year-old pitcher is bouncing back from surgery to remove bone spurs from his right ankle, the same one he injured during the 2013 season with Atlanta that sidelined him for the final two months.
PAGAN'S BALKY BACK: Pagan arrived at spring training declaring himself pain-free for the first time in years following back surgery.
Despite some flare-ups, Pagan and the Giants are counting on a full season. He joked to Bochy that he's ready to play 160 games.
Pagan played in only 96 last season and 71 in 2013 because of injuries.
"It's a new slate for everybody, including him," Bochy said.
RELIABLE BULLPEN: San Francisco's bullpen is lined up again — Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla. Each of these pitchers has been part of all three title teams.
Casilla became closer after Romo struggled in June, though Bochy knows he can mix and match with these guys. Then, there's Yusmeiro Petit, who showed he can start or relieve with equal efficiency.
"You want to remind them to take advantage of what you have," Bochy said. "We've got a great group here and we don't ever want to lose out on this opportunity."