The defending champion San Francisco Giants entered spring training with almost the entirety of last year's postseason roster intact.
Thus, the main theme of spring training has been maintenance: Let the entrenched players get their reps and keep everyone healthy. The other key storyline has been the battle for the final few available roster spots.
On the injury front, the Giants have avoided any serious threats to this point. Jose Mijares has been sidelined with an elbow issue all spring, but it doesn't seem to be a long-term issue. That injury has paved the way for Dan Runzler to potentially take his place on the Opening Day roster.
Tim Lincecum is behind schedule because of a blister issue, but that appears to be behind him now. He looked solid early in his last outing before tiring as he neared his pitch limit. There's enough time left in spring for him to build up his stamina in order to avoid the sudden meltdowns that characterized his disappointing season last year.
Hector Sanchez is also behind schedule due to a shoulder injury that set him back earlier in spring training. He struggled offensively and defensively on Tuesday night, which led to questions about the security of his roster spot. Manager Bruce Bochy was noncommittal, telling Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area,
We’ve got to keep it competitive...That’s the best way to go. There’s no jobs given out here and these guys know it...He [Sanchez] did a good job last year...He’s behind right now. He’s been working hard to get his weight where we wanted it. He’s done a good job of that. He’s just behind on playing time.
Brett Pill, who was battling for one of the two openings on the bench, will probably not be a candidate for an opening day roster spot now that he needs knee surgery. Once Pill recovers from the operation, he could be a candidate to give the Giants some right-handed power off the bench.
Pill to have knee surgery tomorrow and miss three weeks— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) March 13, 2013
Tony Abreu—who is a former Dodgers' top prospect and one of the leading candidates for the final utility infielder job—has only played in one game this spring due to a nagging leg issue. If he gets fully healthy, that job should be his to lose given the struggles and the lack of positional versatility of the other candidates.
Francisco Peguero has been one of the surprise players in camp. He's emerged as the leading candidate for the fifth outfielder job by hitting .424 over 33 spring at-bats.
Johnny Monell has also announced his presence with authority—going 9-for-15 with three extra-base hits. If Monell stays hot and Sanchez continues to struggle, the back-up catcher job could get interesting. Andrew Baggarly wrote of Monell,
Any team could have plucked Monell from the Giants in the Rule 5 draft. So it’s hard to label him as an up-and-coming prospect. But scouts will tell you his left-handed swing is legitimate. He has functional major league power...Monell has worked hard to change a reputation as a spotty defender, and it helps that he has above average arm strength.
Brock Bond, another minor league veteran, has had a solid camp with the bat—hitting .412. Bond has a lifetime .410 minor league on-base percentage, but he doesn't hit for power or offer enough defensive versatility to be a likely candidate to make the team.
Outfielder Cole Gillespie (.658 OPS), infielder Wilson Valdez (.675) and infielder Kensuke Tanaka (.542) have failed to impress. There's still time for them to turn it around, but all three appear to be spring busts at this point.
Brandon Belt has been the hottest regular in camp. He's hit .417 with four home runs, two doubles and a triple. Buster Posey has gone just 4-for-20 to open the spring, but he could just be saving his hits for another run at the batting title this season.
Chad Gaudin (2.38 ERA) appears to be ahead of veterans Ramon Ramirez (10.80), Yusmeiro Petit (10.80) and Scott Proctor (5.14) for the final job in the bullpen.
Ryan Vogelsong (3.38 ERA), Barry Zito (3.38) and Madison Bumgarner (1.86) are rounding into shape, and Matt Cain had his best outing of the spring his last time out. Vogelsong also looked sharp in his first start for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic on Saturday.
The rotation should be an even bigger strength for the Giants this season than it was last year, especially if Lincecum can chop a few runs off of his 5.18 ERA from a year ago. Despite his 14.73 spring ERA, the smart money remains on Lincecum bouncing back in 2013.