Familiar faces hit the field in first full-squad workout
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- At 9:35 a.m. Mountain time, bench coach Ron Wotus strode into Scottsdale Stadium's home clubhouse, where the Giants were scattered as they played cards, changed into baseball gear or chatted idly.
"All right! Listen up," Wotus barked. The time for scattering had ended. Spring Training, for all intents and purposes, had begun.
The Giants' initial full-squad workout Saturday was much like any other opening session. That in itself made it intriguing. In two of the previous three seasons, this exercise proved to be the first step, albeit a baby one, to a World Series triumph.
The 300 or so fans who gathered to watch the workout burst into intermittent cheers during batting practice, eager to applaud their defending champions. Here's a sampling of what they saw -- or, behind the scenes, didn't see.
8:50 a.m. Outfielder Andres Torres, noted for his excess of strength and lack of body fat, arrives at a deserted practice field with a medicine ball. Standing near third base, Torres holds the ball in front of him and flings it over one shoulder. He picks up the ball and flings it over the other shoulder. He reaches deep left field and continues the process for about 10 minutes.
8:57 a.m. Celebrating the new year, second baseman Marco Scutaro and third baseman Pablo Sandoval shake hands and exchange bear hugs -- a Panda hug, if you will.
9:02 a.m. Infielder Kensuke Tanaka returns from a session of early batting practice and is quickly surrounded by a half-dozen Japanese reporters. Surrounded, but not engulfed. The reporters form a semi-circle about four or five feet away from Tanaka -- a respectful distance, contrasting with the space-invading crush that American ballplayers often endure.
9:14 a.m. Reporters and camera crews from three Bay Area television affiliates, along with other members of the media, begin interviewing Sandoval, who seems a tad reserved. Asked if his postseason success changed the way people regard him, he replied, "I'm still the same guy. I don't know how people look at me."
10 a.m. The gates open to spectators. About 150 fans pour in immediately, including one guest with a golden retriever tethered to a red leash.
10:22 a.m. Coaches and instructors begin trickling onto the field, indicating that manager Bruce Bochy has finished speaking to the players. The team follows a few minutes later, including catcher Buster Posey, who waves to fans as he crosses in front of the first-base dugout.
10:40 a.m. While players get loose, much of the coaching staff -- Dave Righetti, Roberto Kelly, Shawon Dunston, Tim Flannery, Joe Lefebvre and Hensley Meulens -- gather behind first base and laugh loudly about something. Righetti, the first to break from the group, walks toward Matt Cain and passes behind a cameraman whose camera is trained upon the players to avoid ruining his shot.
10:50 a.m. Infielders, mostly ones on the 40-man roster, gather behind the pitcher's mound and listen to Wotus, who coordinates infield defense. They start taking ground balls hit by coaches. Brandon Belt and Brett Pill are at first base, Scutaro and Tanaka man second, Brandon Crawford and Wilson Valdez handle shortstop and Sandoval and Joaquin Arias occupy third. Instead of throwing to first base, they toss each baseball aside.
11:10 a.m. A clear, two-tone whistle can be heard at field level as infielders and pitchers participate in a fielding drill. Where's the bird? Actually, it's Sandoval doing the chirping, reflecting his sheer love for baseball activity.
11:15 a.m. Among the pitchers standing on the first-base line waiting to join the drill is No. 43, Sandy Rosario. Fans of a certain age might recall that Jimmy Rosario, a Giants reserve outfielder in 1971-72, wore the same jersey number.
11:25 a.m. "Hi, Mr. Bochy," fans holler in a friendly tone as the skipper moves into position to watch batting practice. "Hello," Bochy responds.
11:30 a.m. Fans cheer as Torres, who played for the Mets in 2012 after spending three years with the Giants, jumps in the batting cage. After concluding his second round of swings with a bunt, Torres turns and nods at Bochy, who's standing behind the cage.
11:38 a.m. Sandoval barely misses hitting the first batting-practice home run of the spring when his line drive strikes the right-field wall, just a few feet beneath the top of the barrier. Sandoval grunts as he pops up the next pitch, but two or three swings later, he plants one in the party area behind the wall, prompting more cheering from the audience.
12:01 p.m. Taking batting practice on an auxiliary diamond, Angel Villalona hits a ball that might have caught the attention of the folks who track asteroids. Villalona's clout to left field clears a screen that's at least 25 feet high before landing in the bullpen where pitchers do their practice throwing. Fortunately, it was unoccupied at the time.
12:20 p.m. Before leaving the field, Meulens employs his knowledge of Japanese, one of five languages he speaks, as he offers advice to Tanaka, the non-roster invitee from Fukuoka, Japan.