Pagan wants to be ironman for Giants
Center fielder's offseason focused on stretching, agility, upper-body muscle
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Angel Pagan has distilled his goals to the bare essentials. And for good reason.
Pagan missed more than half of last season with a strained left hamstring. That misfortune shaped his primary objective for this year: "To play as many games as I can," he said.
The Giants share Pagan's wish. Their record was 34-32 in games he started. That apparently modest .515 winning percentage is actually impressive when juxtaposed with the Giants' 42-54 mark without Pagan and their 76-86 finish overall.
San Francisco learned of Pagan's potential in 2012, when he accelerated the club's march to the World Series by galvanizing the offense and tightening the outfield defense. Even his injury-marred campaign a year ago has whetted the Giants' appetite for success.
For much of the season's second half, the Giants approached a standard for futility. They seemed bound to become the only team besides the 1998 Marlins to finish last one year after winning the World Series. The Giants occupied the National League West basement on Sept. 13, with just 14 games remaining.
Then they proceeded to capture 10 of their final 15 games to forge a third-place tie with San Diego. Pagan helped prompt this surge, batting .323 (30-for-93) after returning to the lineup Aug. 30. That 25-game stint, manager Bruce Bochy said, propelled Pagan with optimism into this season because it "[gave] him the confidence that he was fine."
Pagan acknowledged the momentum he generated from last year's finishing kick.
"I felt like I played better than people expected and I showed the speed that I normally have," he said.
Entering the second year of a four-year, $40 million contract, Pagan arrived here in apparently excellent physical condition. His offseason workouts consisted of stretching and agility drills to keep his legs limber -- and prevent more hamstring problems. He also added upper-body muscle to help him regain the pop that enabled him to amass 61 extra-base hits in 2012.
Most other Giants reported to camp in excellent shape, which Pagan noticed.
"Last year should be a year of motivation for us," he said. "We don't want to be the ones watching the playoffs. We want to be in the playoffs. It was a bad year, but good in a way in that it should be a learning experience for us to go out there and get fired up from the beginning."
Getting fired up never has been a problem for Pagan, 32. Even during his shortened season, he stroked three walk-off hits in 2013, the most by a Giant since Andres Torres also had three in 2010.
One of Pagan's game-winners essentially defined the Giants' season. His two-run, inside-the-park homer off Colorado's Rafael Betancourt on May 25 lifted San Francisco to a 6-5, 10-inning triumph.
Pagan missed the next 84 games and required surgery to repair his hamstring. As was the case with the rest of the team, rarely were the good moments truly good.
It's a popular misconception that Pagan hurt himself sliding home. He said this week that he felt a tweak while pursuing a second-inning fly ball. He returned to the dugout and confided in Marco Scutaro, telling the second baseman, "I think I popped something in my leg." Scutaro quickly tried to alleviate the problem by taping Pagan's leg.
Scutaro offered further assistance in the 10th inning before Pagan headed for the on-deck circle. Recalled Pagan, "He gave me a bat and told me, 'Go ahead. You're going to win the game.'"
Pagan could have stopped at second or third base to preserve his leg or minimize the injury. But his competitive instinct took over.
"If I had to do it again, I'd do it again," he said. "I'm going to leave it all on the field for my teammates and I'm sure that they'd do the same for me."