SAN FRANCISCO — Before he officially committed to playing for Team USA in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, Brandon Crawford received a text from Colorado Rockies star Nolan Arenado.
“Come on, man. I really want to play with you. I want to play on the left side with you,” wrote Arenado, who shares an agent with Crawford.
The two will team up this spring to form just about the most imposing infield duo imaginable. Arenado has won four straight Gold Glove Awards at third base. Crawford has two straight at shortstop. They’ll be side by side in the WBC, providing no daylight for grounders. For much of that run, Buster Posey will be calling the pitches 90 feet away. There’s a good chance, too, that the All-Star group will face Giants co-ace Johnny Cueto at some point.
Given the importance of the three Giants playing, there’s reason for pause. But manager Bruce Bochy said he’s not concerned about the risk to his stars. Bochy recently talked to Team USA manager Jim Leyland about the way he will use Posey and Crawford.
“He’s a guy that’s going to look out for players,” Bochy said. “It’s just who he is.”
There are rules in place to make sure everyone stays healthy in what is supposed to be an international showcase event for the sport. The biggest concerns have always been with pitching, but the WBC is played with expanded rosters and pitcher restrictions. The Giants are fine with Cueto representing the Dominican Republic, even though they watched last spring as the right-hander eased himself into the season.
“Johnny has a way of pacing himself in games and as far as making sure he’s ready,” Bochy said. “Last year in the early part of the spring we slow-played him, but there he was. He was ready.”
The Giants learned during the season that Cueto will even pace himself during starts. He often takes it easy in the early innings, only to ramp up the fastball and intensity when he sniffs a complete game. The same is expected this spring.
“He knows himself,” Bochy said, “And he knows his body.”
Cueto will not attend FanFest this weekend, but Crawford and Posey were both in the house for a media availability Friday and Posey downplayed any concerns.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Posey said. “It’ll definitely be different than any spring training I’ve been a part of. I started to get myself ready a little sooner. Nothing drastic, just maybe being a little more aggressive with my swings and throwing. But I think it’ll be fun, it’ll be a good experience for sure.
“I can understand (any concerns) but I think (fans) would also be frustrated if we didn’t have the Giants represented in some way. I think there are two sides to it. I can definitely understand that, but I think — I can’t speak for Craw or Cueto — but for myself I feel that I’ll be where I need to be, and having (three catchers) there I don’t expect it to be something where I’m catching every inning.”
Posey’s routine shouldn’t be drastically different from a normal spring. He generally doesn’t get many Arizona at-bats, so he should end up around the same range as always. Crawford did have to make a slight change this offseason after taking time the last two years to rest his throwing arm in February. Crawford told WBC organizers that he would pull out if any issues popped up, but he feels good on the eve of camp.
“My arm feels a lot better already than it did the last couple of years,” he said. “That’s a good sign.”
Even so, the Giants will take one more precaution. There was some surprise when the only other shortstop on the roster ended up being young Astros infielder Alex Bregman, who was drafted as a shortstop but moved to third base as he got to the big leagues. Bochy is expected to reach out to organizers to see if additional insurance might be added to make sure Crawford isn’t pushed too hard.
All three Giants are playing for teams that should go deep. Team USA is favored, and the Dominican is right behind the host country, according to oddsmakers. A different kind of title would be a nice way to start the odd year, but regardless, the players expect to take a lot away from the experience.
“It’s great for baseball,” Posey said. “For me, I think that’s part of it as well, just trying to help grow the game if I can.”