Pitchers and catchers report on the 14th of February. The 40-man roster is set (yes, FNG David Huff is on it), and according to the website 66 players will be at camp. Considering that maybe three spots out of 25 are available, it should make for a dull spring. Like I said before, I'm not complaining. Will this be Heath Hembree's opportunity? That's exciting. It doesn't seem like anyone else on the farm is quite ready (other than perhaps Juan Perez, who got to show his stuff for a fair bit last season). Mike Morse will be an interesting case--he's supposed to give the team a little more thump (he had eight homers in April last year), but his glove is supposed to be even worse that Pat Burrell's. The Giants depend a lot on defense, especially range and speed in the outfield, and how Ol' Boch handles the Morse experiment will be a fun story. Gregor Blanco is a valuable guy, and I think the brass know that, so I don't think we'll have to worry about the trade-off too much. If Morse is healthy and can deliver big hits, great. If the move doesn't work out, El Tiburón can step in and do what he does, and the team can go hunting for another thumper or give Morse a different role. There are some good hitters in the lineup already, the "Killer P's" are an enviable bunch (Panda, Posey, Pence, and Pagan), and I am really looking forward to another season from young Brandon Belt. I'm not sure why a chunk of Giants fans are down on a 25-year old lefty coming off a 4-WAR season, but I'm not one of them. I think he's only going to get better, and when you compare him to the rest of the first basemen in the game, he stacks up damn well (and he wears a fat, shiny ring). Take that, Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, and Freddie Freeman!
In the end, as well all know, it will come down to the pitching. If Matt Cain returns to the full-season form we've seen every year but last year, and Madison Bumgarner continues on his upward trajectory, the Giants will have a great one-two punch. Doubt swirls around the likes of Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong, but call me a dreamy-eyed fanboy, I'm not concerned. Tim is a special case. If any athlete will defy expectations, it will be him. Vogie's unique career path also makes him a tough guy to pigeonhole. If he's healthy (and not churning out innings in the WBC), his game--throw strikes, work the corners, change speeds--will play well. And Tim Hudson has one of the best track records of any pitcher in the bigs. I think he's a huge acquisition. The bullpen may be the weak link. Not that the guys aren't talented, but we know how it goes with relievers, there is a lot of uncertainty in those small sample sizes. But I'm a Righetti convert, and if I'm going to put my faith in intangibles, it will be in his pitcher-whisperer skills. And as Sabes showed in the latter half of 2010, he can get the arms he needs for the stretch run.
2013 was a shitty year for the Giants and a shitty year for me personally. Perhaps I'm reaching when I get excited about flipping the calendar pages. But I'll be damned if I'm going to let the blues color my enthusiasm for my beloved boys in orange-and-black. 2014 is, so far, looking up, and I'm going to keep it going with an excess of positive energy and child-like joy. Baseball is coming! What could be better than that?
p.s. could not get the B-R linker tool to work, sorry