SAN FRANCISCO — Social media has led to some awkward moments for teams recently. Coaches sometimes find out over the phone that they’re getting fired, and players often hear the news of trades and deals on Twitter before a team official can dial their number.
The Giants go out of their way to avoid such instances, and thus Denard Span was introduced to the media Friday and was never explicitly called the team’s opening day center fielder or leadoff hitter. Bruce Bochy won’t make that declaration before speaking to Angel Pagan, the incumbent, and the two have only been able to exchange texts in recent days.
You didn’t need a public declaration, though: Denard Span will be the center fielder, and he will hit atop the lineup.
In his opening remarks, Bochy noted Span’s ability in center and hitting leadoff. Later, he was asked directly about his opening day lineup.
“I always like to get with my players when there could be a change or a tweak,” Bochy said. “It’s a very workable situation. (Span is) one of the best center fielders in the game and as I mentioned, a proven leadoff hitter. I would like to, out of respect, touch base with Angel.”
Span’s agent, Scott Boras, marketed him as a premier leadoff hitter and center fielder, saying he’s “like a defensive back” when he breaks on a ball and comparing him to Jacoby Ellsbury. Asked about the crowded outfield market, Boras said Span was in a different lane. “The difference is he’s a leadoff hitter and a center fielder," Boras added.
Span has made 778 out of his 923 career starts in center, but he let others speak to the situation Friday.
“I told Boch I’ll do whatever,” he said. “I’ve been a center fielder for a lot of my career. Center field is sentimental to me, but at the same time, I’m at the stage of my career where I want to do whatever it takes to help me win a championship. If that means me being in center field, I’ll take that with pride and will do the best I can. If they need me in left field, if they need me to catch for Buster a couple of games, I’ll do that as well.”
The Giants, in chasing Span, never even discussed a move to left, and now it will be up to Bochy to smooth things over with Pagan, who takes great pride in playing center and hitting atop the lineup. They made one change last year when Nori Aoki took the No. 1 spot, but a move to left will be complicated by the fact that Pagan is entering his contract year. He wants to play center, but for his sake, showing the ability to be a plus or average defender in left instead of a below-average one in center may help his cause. It will certainly help the Giants.
With Span in center, the Giants will be as strong up the middle as any team in the National League. Brandon Crawford is a Gold Glove winner at short, Joe Panik likely would have been a finalist had he not gotten hurt, and Buster Posey should unseat Yadier Molina one of these years and win his first Gold Glove. Span was a Gold Glove finalist for the Nationals in 2013 and 2014.
“We’re set everywhere right now,” Bochy said. “Usually you go to spring training and you have some question marks, but across the infield and outfield this is as set as we’ve been. And not just set, but as good a defensive club as I’ve ever had. If we all play up to our capabilities, I think we have a chance to be one of the best defensive teams in baseball.”
It shouldn't be long before the Giants make the outfield changes official, but just in case, one last hint was dropped Friday afternoon. About an hour after his press conference, team officials led Span onto the field at AT&T Park to take some shots in his new No. 2 Giants jersey. The photo shoot took place in center field.