SAN FRANCISCO -- As the Giants open Spring Training next week, much attention will be paid to their esteemed newcomers: outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Austin Jackson and third baseman Evan Longoria."If you would have told me after last] season that we would have gotten this much done and added these
SAN FRANCISCO -- As the Giants open Spring Training next week, much attention will be paid to their esteemed newcomers: outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Austin Jackson and third baseman Evan Longoria.
"If you would have told me after [last] season that we would have gotten this much done and added these types of players, I couldn't, really, have been happier. I really like where we are," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said recently.
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And when the Giants approach the conclusion of Spring Training, expect competition to remain fierce for spots on the bench and bullpen and, quite possibly, in the starting rotation.
Here's a first attempt at determining what the Giants' Opening Day roster will look like. This is subject to considerable change.
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Catcher (2): Buster Posey, Nick Hundley
This was one of the Giants' strongest positions last year. There's no need for change.
First base (1): Brandon Belt
The Giants insist that he's feeling no ill effects from the concussion that sidelined him for last season's final 51 games.
Second base (1): Joe Panik
He appears to be on the brink of establishing himself at the position the way Robby Thompson and Jeff Kent did.
Third base (1): Longoria
He's 32 and has played at least 156 games in each of the past five seasons. How much does he have left?
Shortstop (1): Brandon Crawford
He won his third consecutive Gold Glove Award while enduring crushing personal grief. This year has to be cheerier.
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Utility (4): Gorkys Hernandez, Gregor Blanco, Kelby Tomlinson, Pablo Sandoval
This assumes that Steven Duggar opens the season in Triple-A to gain just a little more experience. It also assumes that Sandoval reports to camp in decent physical condition. Otherwise, the Kung Fu Panda could become extinct.
Outfield (3):Hunter Pence, Jackson, McCutchen
The Giants are rooting for Pence, who turns 35 on April 13, to squeeze one more productive season while switching from right to left field. That will vacate right field for McCutchen, who won't have to cover nearly as much ground as he had to in center. Jackson probably will be the everyday center fielder until Duggar forces a platoon or even takes over the position.
Starting pitchers (5):Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Chris Stratton, Ty Blach
The Giants will be thrilled if Bumgarner and Cueto, who combined to finish 12-17 last year, can reverse that record -- with a few more decisions and wins thrown in, of course. Samardzija excelled statistically except for his record (9-15) and home runs allowed (30). Stratton will try to build upon the momentum he established late last season. Blach belied his rookie status with plenty of poise. Both will be challenged by Tyler Beede and Andrew Suarez.
Relievers (7):Sam Dyson, Cory Gearrin, Derek Law, Steven Okert, Josh Osich, Hunter Strickland, Mark Melancon
It all starts with Melancon, the closer who's striving to overcome forearm surgery. Law, Okert and Osich are still seeking Major League-quality command, so this could be an ever-changing group unless they gain consistency.
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.