Ahmed & Andy: Rotation all but locked
Pablo Sandoval had one hit, an RBI and a run scored in two plate appearances in the Giants' Cactus League opener. (AP IMAGES)
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The Giants’ first run of the spring looked like it was plucked from their frenetic run last Autumn.
Angel Pagan singled, he stole second base, Marco Scutaro neatly advanced him with a ground out to the right side and Pablo Sandoval did the rest with an RBI single.
Then it was the Panda’s turn to run. After a couple pickoff throws sent him diving back to first base, he surprised the ballpark by taking off on a pitch – and lumbered all the way home from first base on catcher Jackson Willliams’ double.
So much for easing into the action, huh?
“We were kidding him, `It’s hard to carry that piano around,’” Giants manager Bruce Bochy. “Then it looked like he stopped and played a song.”
Said Sandoval: “I think when I step on third base, home plate was moving away.”
It’ll feel that way for everyone this spring, as the Giants played the first of a whopping 37 exhibition games. They began with a crisp effort in a 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels as baseball returned to Scottsdale Stadium.
In some respects, the Giants picked up right where they left off. Not only did Scutaro take a pitch to allow Pagan to steal, but then the talented No.2 hitter demonstrated that he never forgets how to take a pitch to the right side.
As you'll recall, Pagan and Scutaro easily could’ve been wearing other uniforms this spring. But the Giants made a priority to re-sign both free agents. As a result, Bochy won’t search to find a new 1-2 identity atop the lineup. These two guys already know how to fill those roles, and how to play off each other.
“We pretty much talk every day,” Scutaro said. “Who is pitching, what he is going to do. Maybe a guy is quick (to the plate), so he won’t try to steal. We stay in touch every single day to see where we’re at.
“Every time he’s on base, we have so many options. He’s a threat.”
Pagan struggled in his first spring as a Giant while trying to find his timing. He said it’s a good sign that he felt more comfortable at the plate in Game No.1 – and not just because he’ll leave in barely more than a week to join the Puerto Rico squad for the World Baseball Classic.
“I’m not speeding it up for the Classic,” Pagan said. “I’m getting ready or another championship season, and it starts today.”
Scutaro and Sandoval will leave around the same time to join Venezuela’s camp.
It would be a big deal, to leave for a big chunk of the spring, if these guys were new teammates. But Bochy has no concerns. His players already know each other, and no reintroductions were necessary on Saturday.