COHN: Bruce Bochy confident with lineup in place for Giants
Published: Sunday, March 10, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 11, 2013 at 7:54 a.m.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Imagine me as a stand-in for you. The other day, I met privately with Bruce Bochy and asked basic questions about his team, questions I imagine you would ask. I hope you enjoy.
Cohn: You have lots of guys at the World Baseball Classic — seven major leaguers, one minor leaguer. Does this negatively impact the Giants?
Bochy: I don't think so. I'm all for the WBC and for our guys to represent their countries. We pretty much have the same club we had last year. The part of learning to play as a club, to play together, they know how to do that. I don't think we're going to miss too much. I try to look at the silver lining. It's a chance for younger players to show what they can do.
(Analytical Interruption: Bochy may be right that the WBC will have no negative impact on the Giants. But spring training is a slow-developing phenomenon. It feels like players — Pablo Sandoval, Marco Scutaro, Sergio Romo etc. — were yanked out of recess and told to play at an intense championship level. When the WBC ends, they will relax again. This is an abnormal rhythm. Will it affect the Giants when they make their late-season push? Back to the interview.)
Cohn: Will Brandon Belt be your first baseman?
Bochy: Brandon Belt's my first baseman.
Cohn: You feel he will represent you well?
Bochy: I do. He made progress last year, really got better as the season went on. He played a big role in our success. We need Brandon Belt. He's our first baseman.
Cohn: Marco Scutaro, can he play most days at second base?
Bochy: He'll be out there, I don't want to say how many games, but pretty much every day.
Cohn: Can Brandon Crawford hit enough to carry you at shortstop?
Bochy: Yeah, I think he did last year. If Brandon hits around .250 (he batted .248 in 2012) and drives in some runs, with his defensive ability, that works. I think he's going to hit better than last year.
Cohn: He's an excellent fielder?
Bochy: There's no better defensive shortstop in our league. He showed that the second half. He's very gifted.
Cohn: He remind you of anyone?
Bochy: No, I think because he's a little bigger than most shortstops, he's his own guy.
Cohn: Are you satisfied with Sandoval's weight?
Bochy: Not completely. Pablo knows that. He's done everything we've asked in order to play. He's getting after the conditioning part; he was until he went to the WBC. As he continues out there, we'll try to touch base with him to make sure he is doing his conditioning, doesn't gain any weight. Other than that, he's lost quite a bit of weight since he's been in camp. I feel for him because it's not easy, it's a battle. But, at the same time, you've got to beat it. He just has one of those bodies that it's not going to be easy for him. He's got to come in here and lose weight. I'm sure that's not fun. That's the way it's always going to be with him with his genetics.
Cohn: Your left field, is it mostly a defensive left field?
Bochy: I'd say right now. We're looking at some other guys there. We have Andres Torres, he hasn't had a chance to play much. (He has an oblique strain and had to leave the Puerto Rican team.) We need him on the field. But we have Francisco Peguero and Gregor Blanco, and some pretty good choices there.
Cohn: Are you confident Hunter Pence can do the job in right field, despite hitting .219 in 59 games with San Francisco last season?
Bochy: You look at his numbers even last year, I'll take over 100 RBIs (104) and the number of home runs he hit (24). That's going to work. This is his second year here. He'll settle in. There's no one tougher than Hunter Pence. He'll figure it out. He's tough and he's also skilled. He might be a little unusual in his style, but it works for him. He's consistent.
Cohn: What does Tim Lincecum need to do to be a significant contributor?
Bochy: Just be himself. I like where he's at. Timmy's in a good place mentally and physically, looking stronger than I've ever seen him. He's ahead of where he's been at this point in the past in spring training. He seems like he's back to really having fun, enjoying the game. He'll have a nice year.
Cohn: I'm going to challenge you. When you say “be himself,” himself used to be a power pitcher. That's not coming back anymore.
Bochy: That's where we would disagree. When he won his second Cy Young (2009), he wasn't a power pitcher. He didn't pitch at 96, 97 that year. If he's at 91, where Matt Cain pitches, he's got the repertoire to win the Cy Young. These guys don't keep that power arm every year. At some point, they settle at a velocity. Matt Cain was 96, 97. He's pitching at 91 now. Timmy has settled in. It's just important they learn how to pitch. Tim has four pitches he can throw any time. That works in the major leagues.
Cohn: Are you entirely confident in Romo as your closer?
Bochy: I am. Again you look every year his numbers. They haven't all been in the closing hole. It's a small sample size. He's a strike thrower. He's got three pitches. He can change speeds on his slider and his fastball, and he's not afraid. Now, there may be times we'll help him and split it up a little bit to keep him fresh.
Cohn: Do you worry about his elbow?
Bochy: I worry about certain things, pitchers' arms, knees, things like that. That's common with managers. He's helped us with the load we've handed him. No reason he shouldn't as long as we take care of him.
Cohn: Is this team as good as last year's?
Bochy: We certainly think we can be. We're pretty much the same club. For us to be that same club we were last year, we've got to get guys having their normal years. We don't need guys to have huge years, just the years we're expecting of them. With the Belts and the Crawfords you're always looking for them to make progress, even become better players. With this rotation and this bullpen, as long as we stay healthy and they have the type of year we expect, I think we'll have a good year.
OK, you heard it straight from the Skipper. Have a nice day.
(For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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