SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Like just about everyone involved with the Giants' run to a second World Series title in three years, Marco Scutaro is still adjusting to an offseason that didn't start until November.
"I took my glove out of my bag when I got here, and it was still cold from Detroit," Scutaro said Saturday, smiling.
But Scutaro, 37, wouldn't have it any other way. A few weeks of missed rest is a small price to pay for a championship, and after a journey that included eight seasons as a professional before he became a full-time starter in the big leagues, Scutaro is hoping for another.
After unpacking and making a trip around the clubhouse at Scottsdale Stadium, Scutaro made a point of mentioning the career of former Giant and fellow Venezuelan infielder Omar Vizquel, who played 24 seasons but reached the World Series just twice, losing both times."People sometimes don't understand how hard it is to get back to the World Series," Scutaro said. "It's something I appreciated."
Management is hopeful that appreciation permeates the clubhouse. In the offseason, Scutaro was given a three-year deal to continue playing second base and being a clubhouse leader, a role he immediately embraced after coming over from the Colorado Rockies.
Scutaro was one of the last position players to arrive in camp, but he was a popular subject even as the only sign this week of his impending presence was a stack of shipped boxes in front of his locker.
As teammates took turns meeting with the media, the same question was asked over and over again: Was it a smart decision for the Giants to stand pat as the rest of the National League contenders made changes? To a man — from Buster Posey to Ryan Vogelsong and everyone in between — the Giants noted that this time around, they'll have a full season of Scutaro's immense presence on the field and, perhaps more important, in the clubhouse.
Scutaro is a rare combination, a Latin player who has been in the U.S. so long that he is equally comfortable with the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking members of the clubhouse. He serves as a bridge at times, having seen it all with six big league franchises and countless stints in the Venezuelan winter league.
"He's an easy guy to get along with," shortstop Brandon Crawford said. "You see how helpful he can be for the younger guys." The 26-year-old Crawford is one of them, and part of a locked-in infield that includes Brandon Belt (24), Buster Posey (25) and Pablo Sandoval (26).
"Scutaro brings leadership to a group that isn't very old for the most part," Crawford said. "He just has this businesslike approach that's a good example for the rest of us to follow." Scutaro also helped the Giants bridge the gap on the field, hitting .362 after being acquired and leading a team that could have crumbled after Melky Cabrera's suspension. He was even better in the postseason, batting .500 and taking MVP honors in the National League Championship Series as the Giants vanquished the St. Louis Cardinals, a team Scutaro believes was the Giants' stiffest competition.
He viewed highlight clips over the offseason, saying the comeback in Cincinnati still makes you "sit back and go 'Wow!' " But Scutaro hasn't had a chance to fully watch his iconic moment, a joyful tribute to the driving rain in Game 7 of the NLCS that looked like a scene straight out of "The Shawshank Redemption." "I never saw rain like that in four years in Oakland," Scutaro said, shaking his head. "We're a strike away from the World Series and it was like, 'Oh my god, what is this? It's a message.' I was impressed." The Giants were impressed enough by Scutaro to make him an offseason priority despite his advanced age. After making about $22 million through the 2012 season, Scutaro will make $20 million over the course of a contract that will take him to his 40th birthday.