Reunited for spring training, Giants ready to work
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Angel Pagan has no problem making bold statements at the start of spring training: He’s calling a repeat championship for San Francisco in 2013.
With nearly the same roster returning from last fall’s special run to the title – the second in three years for the franchise – Pagan figures, why not?
“I think we’re going to repeat,” he said upon arriving at spring training Friday. “We’re positive about this team. We’re going to get lucky again, like people said.”
Along one clubhouse wall at Scottsdale Stadium are the lockers for Pagan, Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez – all in a row. The three are connected in a rare scenario in which Torres and Ramirez were traded to the New York Mets for Pagan before last season, and now both are back with San Francisco alongside Pagan after they helped the Giants win the 2010 World Series.
“We may have to break that group up,” manager Bruce Bochy joked.
Longtime equipment manager Mike Murphy put them together on purpose “so they can talk about what happened.” Murphy also made a point to split up the close-knit Latino players throughout the clubhouse.
Pagan and Torres also will play together in the World Baseball Classic for Puerto Rico.
“It fills my heart to go out there and play in front of my countrymen,” Pagan said.
Pagan kept in touch with second baseman Marco Scutaro during the offseason, then both wound up re-signing with the Giants as they had hoped.
Scutaro reached agreement on his $20 million, three-year deal with the Giants a day after Pagan was rewarded with a $40 million, four-year contract. He wanted stability for his family, and he got it.
Pagan insists nothing will change now. He plans to play with the same passion despite all the dollar signs.
“The peace of mind is there,” Pagan said. “My bank account did change, but my passion for the game didn’t change. I just want to leave my heart on the field. … I signed this contract and the expectations are really big, as well as to myself.”
Pagan, the team’s leadoff hitter, batted .288 with eight home runs, 56 RBIs and a San Francisco-best 15 triples in his first season with the Giants.
Scutaro, 37, hit .362 with three homers and 44 RBIs in 61 regular-season games with the Giants after he was acquired in a July 27 trade with Colorado. World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval expects to stay healthy after injuries slowed him last season.
“I think that’s the best thing we have, the chemistry’s the same,” Pagan said. “There are some additions but the atmosphere is going to be the same. The way we got along last year, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
For Bochy, having so many familiar faces back for 2013 makes his job easier in terms of players knowing what to expect from him and how he runs a club.
“I think it’s fair to say we’re as set as we have been in recent years,” Bochy said.
Right fielder Hunter Pence is among the position players who showed up early, eager to get going in his first spring training with San Francisco after getting traded by the Phillies last summer.
He offered some wisdom Friday morning:
“Enjoy this day because you never know when an exploding meteor’s going to hit,” he said.
The quirky Pence is another key part of this winning group. The Giants know even with two trophies in three years, many will expect the big-spending Los Angeles Dodgers to win the NL West.
And, that’s OK with these guys.
“This team, you don’t need anything else, when you have a championship team,” Pagan said. “I don’t need the credit. When you don’t get the credit, that’s what makes you hungry to go out there and prove people wrong. It’s not good to be the favorite.”
Villalona rejoins Giants
Angel Villalona is back in the dugout, back in uniform, eager for a new baseball life 3 1/2 years after he was charged with murder in his native Dominican Republic.
The San Francisco Giants’ former top first base prospect declined to address his legal past – specifically, exactly what happened.
“I’d rather not talk about it,” he said through an interpreter Friday. “I just want to concentrate on playing baseball. … I’m here to get back to playing baseball. I’m thankful they gave me a second chance.”
Villalona was charged in the September 2009 death of a 25-year-old man at a bar. He was freed on bond that November after the family of the deceased asked a judge to drop the case, but Villalona was also stripped of his U.S. visa at the time.
“I never doubted myself. I never thought that (I couldn’t get back here). I always thought I could do it, just like people here have confidence in me,” Villalona said.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy envisions few issues or distractions with the arrival of Villalona, who has dropped from 290 pounds to 250 in preparation for his comeback.
Young Bochy joins Dad in Arizona
A little bit of playful razzing comes with the territory for Brett Bochy. He gets it.
The pitcher is in his first big league camp for the San Francisco Giants. And, his dad’s the manager.
“It’s pretty special to have your son here, I’m not going to lie,” Bruce Bochy said Saturday.
Reliever Jeremy Affeldt plans to remind the right-hander about it regularly – good-naturedly, of course.
“Only seven or eight times a day,” Affeldt said. “We’re going to ask him every day: ‘Where do we go? Who we putting in today, Boch?'”
A quick poll around the clubhouse will tell you that Bochy’s teammates know the pitcher earned this opportunity.
He has made an impression on the Giants’ brass nearly three years after elbow ligament-replacement surgery. He went 7-3 with a 2.53 ERA and 14 saves in 41 appearances and 51 1-3 innings last year for Double-A Richmond. Fatigued down the stretch last season, the coaches plan to closely monitor his workload this spring training.