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Giants closing in on final opening day roster as season nears

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This can be the most stressful time of year for players on the bubble and executives hoping to fill roster holes at the last minute, but as Farhan Zaidi spoke to reporters from his backyard Thursday, with birds chirping in the background and the sun shining, he did not look particularly stressed. There's a reason for that.

"I feel like we may have a little less drama with our opening day roster than in some years past," the Giants president of baseball operations said. "The position player side, if some of our guys who are kind of working their way back to health continue on the current positive trajectory, it's pretty straightforward."

The final piece slid into place Thursday when Brandon Belt was put in the lineup at first base after missing nearly all of camp with mononucleosis and rehab for heel surgery. Belt has one at-bat this spring, but the Giants believe he has time to get ready for the April 1 opener in Seattle, and Zaidi sounded hopeful. Later in the day, manager Gabe Kapler did, too. 

"Right now I see a real path to him being ready for us on opening day and ready to contribute right away," Kapler said. 

That would be a boost to a lineup that has been tearing up the Cactus League. The Giants rank second among all spring training teams with a .356 OBP and eighth with a .459 slugging percentage. Spring training stats generally don't mean much, and Zaidi said he usually doesn't even check them often, but he caught a glimpse Thursday and was happy to see seven players -- including five projected regulars -- with an OPS over 1.000. 


"We're going to have guys on the bench pretty much every game that probably wish and think they should be starting and that's what you want, to have that level of depth and competition on your position player side," Zaidi said. 

The questions at this point of camp are all on the pitching side, where the Giants plan to carry five starters and eight relievers at the beginning of the year and most of the season. 

The Giants named Kevin Gausman their Opening Day starter on Wednesday and Johnny Cueto will follow him. Zaidi said he's not worried about Cueto's rough spring, noting that he generally has poor March numbers. He also was pleased with Anthony DeSclafani's sharp performance Wednesday. Logan Webb has been the best pitcher in camp and will fill in if Alex Wood, who had a minor back procedure, is not ready in a week. The final spot will go to Aaron Sanchez, assuming he gets his pitch count up in time. 

The Giants have five bullpen locks -- Jake McGee, Matt Wisler, Jose Alvarez, Jarlin Garcia and Tyler Rogers -- and at least a couple of the final three spots figure to go to non-roster invitees. Zaidi said opt-outs won't be a big problem since most non-roster invitees in camp are well aware that the Giants will turn to their alternate site depth early and often. 

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That alternate site group could soon include one more option. Zaidi always is active this time of year, scooping up players who were let go from other camps, and he has a clear need over the next week. The Giants don't have a suitable starting option at shortstop behind Brandon Crawford and Mauricio Dubon, and Zaidi is hopeful that he can add one to protect against injuries. 

"Shortstop is a position that we do have some concerns about beyond Craw and Dubon," he said. "We've had (Donovan) Solano play over there and he certainly could do that in a pinch, but one of the things we'd like to do in the next few days is find some upper-level depth at that position."

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