The San Francisco Giants will play their first spring training game of 2013 on February 23.
As that date fast approaches, the Giants have a lot of prep work ahead of them.
On the pitching side, Manager Bruce Bochy has some difficult decisions ahead of him. In the starting rotation, Tim Lincecum remains a giant question mark going into spring training. While Lincecum remains motivated, his growing confidence could take a serious blow if faced with further struggles in Arizona. In 2012, Lincecum posted a 5.70 ERA over the course of spring training.
A player's performance in spring training should be taken with a grain of salt; however, in this case, Lincecum is coming off of the worst season of his career. Since reporting to spring training on February 12, Lincecum expressed optimism to SFGate.com in regards to his mechanics:
Last year coming into it I was trying to lose the weight from the year prior. This year I’m feeling strong and throwing off my leg again...I felt my front leg was actually stabilizing my motion when it comes to an end and I’m actually following through as opposed to just falling out of it or wheeling off. My follow-through was a lot better and on target.
Moving to the bullpen, relievers Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, George Kontos, Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla and Jose Mijares look to return to their 2012 roles.
Still, the Brian Wilson saga continues. In late January, Sabean appeared doubtful Wilson would return to the Giants. According to Chris Cwik of CBS Sports:
Even if Wilson is willing to accept a one-year, incentive-laden offer, Sabean believes it will be with a team other than the Giants. In 2011, Wilson had a 3.11 ERA, a 3.33 FIP and 36 saves in 55 innings pitched. He threw just two innings last season, missing most of the year after Tommy John surgery.
However, the Giants' GM has reportedly not shut the door on Wilson. Andrew Baggerly elaborates on the back-and-forth currently going on between the two camps.
Miscommunication and misinterpretations abound.
Regardless, the Giants will need a definitive answer regarding Wilson by the start of spring training games.
Wilson is not the only question mark in the bullpen. After spending 2012 with the New York Mets, reliever Ramon Ramirez is returning to the Giants in 2013—if he can sort out his visa. Chris Haft of MLB.com reports the reliever has already missed two workouts, and he could miss more.
With position players reporting for workouts February 15, the Giants have lingering concerns, primarily in the outfield. While center fielder Angel Pagan and right fielder Hunter Pence are set to reprise their roles in 2013, left field remains up for grabs.
The organization's top-rated prospect Gary Brown will certainly get attention this spring. According to MLB.com, Bochy indicated that Brown will likely see more playing time in both left and right field.
It is imperative for Brown to get more exposure to major league level pitching in order to further his development.
Additionally, the Giants need to evaluate infielders, as second baseman/utility man Ryan Theriot is unlikely to return in 2013. Utility infielder Joaquin Arias is expected to continue his role as a defensive replacement to third baseman Pablo Sandoval, but his workload may increase in 2013. Depending on his offensive production this spring, Arias has the potential to fill in for a slumping Brandon Crawford or an underperforming Marco Scutaro.
Currently, Arias is the only "guaranteed" reserve infielder on the Giants' depth chart. The Giants have other players they will need to evaluate this spring. After claiming infielder Tony Abreu off waivers from the Royals, the Giants confirmed their need for more depth in the infield. Abreu could potentially become an ideal role player for the squad, and the Giants should maintain a watchful eye on the 28-year old.
Other invitees in the infield include the usual suspects (first baseman Brett Pill, third baseman Conor Gillaspie) and some newer faces, such as prospects Ehire Adrianza and Nick Noonan. Like Brown, the Giants want to give these middle infielders exposure to major league play. While neither is likely to make the 2013 regular-season roster, their development is vital moving towards the future.
Sabean has demonstrated a willingness to expand the roster and shop for both relievers and utility infielders. Any deals he might be considering need to be worked through before spring training games begin.
The defending champs have a lot of work ahead as they prepare for not only spring training games, but the 2013 season at large.