Giants

EXTRA BAGGS: Giants want a heavier Lincecum, etc.

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EXTRA BAGGS: Giants want a heavier Lincecum, etc.

NASHVILLE -- The Giants have asked Tim Lincecum to put some more meat on his bones this winter -- preferably not by eating out of a paper cheeseburger sack.

"The focus is on good weight," said Giants head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner, who spoke by phone with Lincecum last week. "If he can gain five or six pounds of good weight this winter and come into spring, that would be what we're looking for."

Lincecum struggled to a 5.18 ERA last season -- the highest among all NL starting pitchers who qualified for the ERA title -- before becoming a secret weapon as a highly effective long reliever in the postseason. He either ran into trouble in the first inning, when he struggled to repeat his mechanics, or in the later innings, as his pitch count began to climb.

The latter was more of a stamina issue as Lincecum pitched nearly 20 pounds lighter than the previous season. The two-time Cy Young Award winner said he didn't like the way his knees and ankles felt in 2011, even though he had a 2.74 ERA and struck out 220. He had gained weight by gorging on In-N-Out double-double burgers.

The Giants don't want Lincecum to grease-bomb his way back to his 2011 weight. But they'd like him to begin the year with some reserves in his tank.

"He felt good (in 2012) and it wasn't like he was in bad shape," Groeschner said. "This is a strong kid we're talking about. Could he be in better shape? Certainly. We'd like to see his legs a little stronger, work on core strength. We just don't want him to start on a deficit."

Lincecum is entering his final year before he'd be eligible for free agency. He'll be a member of the starting rotation, manager Bruce Bochy reiterated to me on Monday. And as you might expect, Lincecum is motivated to have a turnaround season.

Groeschner was encouraged after hanging up the phone.

"Timmy just seems more eager to get going this winter and do it," Groeschner said. "He's ready to go for it. I was pleased with that as a starting point. Now it's up to him to put that into play.

"We just don't want him to fluctuate. We want him to find a happy medium."

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Lincecum and all other pitchers were under orders to "stay cool" through Dec. 1. Now they are just beginning to crank up their fitness and throwing programs. But Groeschner said he plans to curtail their activity this spring, whether it takes the form of fewer bullpens, shorter exhibition starts or even delaying their participation in Cactus League games for the first week. (The Giants' Feb. 23 exhibition opener is their earliest in history, which is partly due to the World Baseball Classic.)

NEWS: Giants release Cactus League schedule

Groeschner said he would get with Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti to map out a plan to limit pitches after the Giants won their second World Series in three seasons.

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Pablo Sandoval confirmed what he told us in October: He's definitely participating for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.

Sandoval is in Venezuela now and will play for Magallanes in the winter league. It's a different offseason than the previous two years, when he did less baseball work and more strength training along with weight loss.

He'll be watched by Jose Alguacil, the Giants' well-regarded roving minor league infield instructor, who is coaching for Magallanes. Giants hitting coach Hensley "Bam Bam" Meulens is managing the Margarita club and checking in frequently with Sandoval as well.

Two years ago, the Giants put the fear of God (or Fresno) in Sandoval when they demanded that he lose weight. It's a little harder to do that with a reigning World Series MVP. Ultimately, club officials know it's up to Sandoval to come into camp in acceptable condition, and no amount of monitoring can change that.

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Sergio Romo is expected to play for Mexico in the WBC, and several other members of the organization are likely to participate. But the toughest call will be Buster Posey, who has gone on record saying he'd like to suit up for Team USA.

Bochy recently checked in with Posey about that decision; the Giants wouldn't actively try to dissuade him, but it's clear they would have greater peace of mind if he skipped the tournament -- especially after he spent 10 months of ankle rehab, played far more games than they expected in 2012 and pushed himself through three rounds of the playoffs.

Groeschner has received praise throughout baseball, and deservedly so, for the plan he and his staff devised to get Posey back on the field after those two ankle surgeries left him unable to walk for more than three months.

The Giants prefer to pace Posey the same way this spring, since you can't argue with the results -- a batting title and an NL MVP Award. But the WBC would throw everyone a big curveball. So stay tuned.

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George Kontos had successful laser eye surgery, and he wasn't the only one. Jeremy Affeldt had the procedure done shortly after signing his three-year contract last month, too. And no, thank heavens, it was not self-administered.

Maybe now Affeldt will be able to see those hamburger patties more clearly when he tries to separate them.

What the Giants' 2018 Opening Day lineup could look like

What the Giants' 2018 Opening Day lineup could look like

SAN FRANCISCO — The excitement could be heard in Bruce Bochy’s voice as he spoke on a conference call Tuesday afternoon, which was understandable. Bochy used 136 different lineups last season, largely because the Giants never found permanent solutions in the outfield or at third base. 

Since the final game of a 98-loss season, the front office has handed Bochy an everyday third baseman in Evan Longoria, a star in right field in Andrew McCutchen, and a versatile outfield option in Austin Jackson. With every new addition, Bochy has tinkered with the lineup bouncing around his head. He isn’t ready to reveal anything publicly, but he said the new-look staff is already discussing lineup options. 

“It’s going to be probably toward the end of spring training until we have this lineup down,” Bochy said. “It’s a different lineup, as you know. I’ll see or we will see what makes the most sense.”

In McCutchen and Longoria, the Giants added two guys used to hitting right in the heart of the order. After the Longoria deal, Bochy did say he would like to hit Longoria in front of Buster Posey and Brandon Belt. Since then, McCutchen has given him another option, and a lot more could still change. 

Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans would like to add one more center fielder, and it’s possible that player can lead off. Steven Duggar could win the job in camp, and with his speed and strong eye at the plate, he would be an ideal leadoff option. That is, however, a lot of pressure for a rookie, and Bochy mentioned McCutchen and Jackson as options atop the lineup. Both hit there quite a bit earlier in their careers, but McCutchen hasn’t been a leadoff hitter since 2011 and Jackson has just 56 starts there the last three years. Joe Panik and Hunter Pence also have experience leading off for Bochy, and it’s possible the top of the lineup could change depending on the opposing pitcher.  

“I’ve always liked to have the versatility or flexibility to mix it a little bit,” Bochy said. “Maybe it’s a matchup thing or lefty-righty.”

It will be a lefty, Clayton Kershaw, staring in at the Giants on opening day. So for now, here’s a guess at the group Bochy will send out there at Dodger Stadium … 

1. Andrew McCutchen RF
2. Joe Panik 2B
3. Evan Longoria 3B
4. Buster Posey C
5. Brandon Belt 1B
6. Hunter Pence LF
7. Brandon Crawford SS
8. Austin Jackson CF
9. Madison Bumgarner LHP

Jackson not necessarily Giants' everyday center fielder

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USATSI

Jackson not necessarily Giants' everyday center fielder

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants had a glaring hole in center field after the acquisition of Andrew McCutchen and his subsequent move to right field, so it stood out when a press release to announce the signing of Austin Jackson included the words “depth at all three outfield positions.”

A day later, team officials made it clear that Jackson is not necessarily the final piece of the puzzle, or even the solution in center field. After mentioning several times that it was a strategic signing, vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean gave a blunt answer when asked about Jackson’s role. 

“Did we get him to be our everyday center fielder? Probably not,” Sabean said. “I don’t know that in his recent history he’s been able to go out there in that fashion.”

Jackson played just 54 games in 2016 and 85 last season for the Indians. The Giants see him as a complementary piece, someone who can handle plenty of time in center, spell McCutchen and Hunter Pence in the corners, and give them a dangerous bat against left-handed pitchers. 

It seemed that was a role that would mostly go to Austin Slater, but the Giants gave Jackson a two-year deal for $6 million, basically wiping out the rest of their room under the tax line. They will not be significantly involved in free agency from this point on, which leaves two options for one more outfield addition. 

Steven Duggar was mentioned over and over again on Tuesday’s conference call, and the Giants will give the prospect a chance to win a significant role this spring. It’s possible that Duggar and Jackson could form a platoon, but before committing to that, the front office will look to add a third offseason addition via trade. 

“There are still some fronts that we are pursuing with minimum-service type of players, which are low in salary,” Sabean said. “We’ll flush out other possibilities.”

Evans has spent months laying the groundwork for multiple deals, and the front office remains confident that one more outfielder can be added via trade. The player would have to be young and pre-arbitration to line up financially with the rest of the offseason work.

If that doesn’t end up happening, Bruce Bochy won’t be too upset. Bochy said he couldn’t be happier with the work Sabean and Evans have done to overhaul an outfield that was unfathomably bad on both sides of the ball last season. If Jackson is the final piece, Bochy is ready to make it work. 

“Right now, as we start the season, I think you’ll see Austin out in center field as much as anything,” he said. “We’ll see where we’re at when we break camp, but that’s a need for us out there in center. As we break camp, we’ll know where we’re at with other options, Gorkys (Hernandez) or Duggar. But center field is where (Jackson) will spend most of his time this spring.”