You would have to be foolish to buy too much stock in most spring storylines, but as the Giants went through six weeks of camp at Scottsdale Stadium, there were two that seemed like they would have staying power.
They are very, very confident in their lineup against right-handed pitchers after adding Tommy La Stella to the top of it. They are also increasingly confident in young right-hander Logan Webb after spring dominance spurred by new life in his changeup.
Neither of those spring storylines carried over to the opening series in Seattle.
The Giants fell 4-0 to the Mariners at T-Mobile Park on Saturday night, doing little damage against unproven right-hander Chris Flexen and former A's starter Kendall Graveman, who struck out five in two innings of relief. Right-handed closer Rafael Montero retired all four batters he faced, including Evan Longoria in a big spot in the eighth.
As for the other side, Webb had an OK season debut, but gave up three runs in 5 1/3, with the Mariners hunting his changeup the second time through the order and doing damage.
The loss was certainly disappointing, and losing a series to the Mariners is a suboptimal way to start the year, but manager Gabe Kapler said none of his confidence in spring standouts is shaken. He called Webb's outing "mature," noting that he kept throwing his changeup and attacking the zone after the two-run fourth that gave the Mariners a 3-0 lead. As for the lineup, it's just one night.
"I really liked the lineup that we had out there and I thought our approach the first couple of times through was just fine," Kapler said. "It wasn't ending in the outcomes we want in hits and walks. I thought the approach was good and I'm really confident in the lineup we threw out there today against any right-handed pitcher."
They will see better ones down the road, but on this night Flexen had more than enough against a group that has some scuffling veterans. Mike Yastrzemski is 1-for-13 to start the year, but Kapler said he doesn't think a hit-by-pitch last weekend is lingering. Yastrzemski hits second in this version of the lineup. Brandon Belt, who hits cleanup, struck out in all three at-bats Saturday. Brandon Crawford is 1-for-11 and Austin Slater, who got a start in center, struck out three times.
The hitters have a long track record to lean on, but Webb is leaning mostly on a lights-out spring that won him not just a rotation spot, but the third start of the year. He used his changeup to get out of a first-inning jam, but the Mariners opened the fourth with three straight doubles, all on changeups.
"I feel like most teams are going to be probably looking for that pitch," he said. "I've just got to execute better. Those three straight doubles, the (Taylor) Trammell one wasn't too bad but the other ones I can't leave them that far up (in the zone). When you leave a pitch middle-middle, it's frustrating, but it's something I'll work on."
Webb threw his changeup 31 percent of the time last year, but the Giants want him to make it his top offering and view it as a potential elite weapon. While the overall results weren't there, Webb did get plenty of good work in. He threw 35 changeups, far exceeding his total for any other pitch. The pitch led to three of his five strikeouts.
"I think the line looked pretty similar to several of the lines that we saw last year from Webb, but I thought it was different in that he continued to attack the strike zone" Kapler said. "He certainly got a good feel for that changeup and even made some adjustments with the changeup after we saw the hard contact. By introducing and getting a feel for a new pitch or introducing different pitch usages, we don't guarantee that there's not going to be hard contact. We can expect hitters to make adjustments.
"What's important is that he develops this really unique weapon he's ultimately going to be able to throw in and out of the zone. But right now he did exactly what we asked him to do. He kept us in the baseball game. We didn't swing the bats enough to support the work that he did."