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Bochy predicts healthy competition in NL West

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Believe the hype about the National League West, Giants manager Bruce Bochy insisted as he met with reporters at the Winter Meetings on Tuesday.

Approaching his 21st season as a Major League manager, including his 10th in a row with the Giants, Bochy suggested Arizona's pricey acquisition of free-agent right-hander Zack Greinke leveled the talent within the division. San Francisco or Los Angeles has won the West every year since 2010, with the lone exception being the D-backs' title in 2011.

Each team except Colorado possesses a legitimate, top-of-the-rotation ace. Besides Arizona and Greinke, the Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw, San Diego boasts James Shields -- or, if you prefer, Tyson Ross -- and the Giants rely on Madison Bumgarner. Colorado lacked a double-digit winner this year, but a break or two could propel Jorge De La Rosa, Chad Bettis or Kyle Kendrick into that class.

• Winter Meetings interview with Bruce Bochy

"I think you look at it as a much more balanced division. Every team has their guy, their horse," Bochy said. "It kind of changes the look of the division with the parity now that's in Arizona, L.A. and us, and of course San Diego. ... of course, we had a lot of trouble with Colorado (8-11).

"With Greinke going to Arizona, I think they are definitely a team to be reckoned with. They have good, young position players. They have got [Patrick] Corbin back. So they have a nice, strong rotation and bullpen. That move made them a lot better club."

Video: Bochy on Giants signing Samardzija, backup catcher

Bochy sounded upbeat about the season ahead, particularly since he expects to open Spring Training with a healthy roster instead of the injury-riddled group that finished in second place last season with an 84-78 record, eight games behind the Dodgers.

• Hot Stove Tracker

For instance, Bochy anticipates welcoming a fully able Hunter Pence to Scottsdale. The right fielder went on the disabled list three times last season and appeared in just 52 games.

"I'd like to see him golf. That's what he's been doing the last two or three weeks," Bochy said.

Bochy also envisions Angel Pagan bringing his speed to center field and the leadoff spot, assuming the switch-hitter's knees aren't bothering him in the final year of his four-year contract. Pagan underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in October to hasten his physical progress.

Video: [email protected]: Pagan sets career mark with three stolen bases

"I think you have to keep the faith and belief. That's always part of the equation when you look at guys that are with you," Bochy said. "I know he's looking at next year as a very big year for us and for him. He wants to come into Spring Training completely healthy."

Bochy will have few vacancies to fill, but one will be critical: the long relief/spot starter role that Yusmeiro Petit capably handled since August 2013. The Giants declined to tender Petit a 2016 contract last Wednesday, casting him into free agency. Though the Giants can re-sign him, Bochy sounded as if he were bidding Petit farewell.

"A guy like Petit is not easily replaced," Bochy said. "I can't thank him enough for the role that he played for us -- long relief, short, started. He always wanted the ball. He pitched some beautiful games as a starter. This is the tough part of the game when you lose somebody like Yusmeiro, because he's such a class guy. Great teammate. But you have to make moves, unfortunately, and so I wish him nothing but the best."

Chris Haft is a reporter for Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.
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