SAN FRANCISCO — As he packed his bag in the middle of Tuesday’s exhibition game at Oracle Park, Brandon Crawford nodded in the direction of Steven Duggar’s locker. Giants veterans all think highly of the young center fielder, and Crawford pointed out that he knows another guy who came up for his defense but became a good hitter.
That would be the shortstop who always was confident that he’d figure it out, no matter what others said. Crawford feels the same about the 2019 Giants, and he's not alone. It's a confident group.
During the TV broadcast one night earlier, starter Derek Holland passionately pointed out that everyone is picking the Dodgers to be the champs, adding "yeah, that's not happening," and "we're going to definitely make some noise."
"Nobody is picking us to do anything," said Holland, who will start the second game of the season.
To be fair to anyone turning in a predictions column, there's a good reason for that. The Giants lost 187 games the past two seasons, and their biggest contract in the offseason went to Holland, who already was part of the mix.
This is a group that wants to send Giants manager Bruce Bochy out with one last October run, but if they do it, that truly would be a shock to just about everyone outside of the clubhouse.
Can they actually do it? Well, the organization has succeeded as the underdog before, and players and coaches believe there's a blueprint. There are key things that have to happen, though.
First and foremost, just about all of the regulars have to stay healthy. Giants spent 1,107 days on the DL in 2018, which ranked just 15th in the league. The key issue wasn't the total days, but the specific players who went down. Every member of the vaunted infield missed time, and all but Crawford hit the DL. Buster Posey and Brandon Belt had season-ending surgeries.
With an outfield full of players getting their first real shot, and little help in the upper minors, the Giants must keep their stars in the lineup. That's their only shot at scoring enough runs to back a solid pitching staff.
"We need to stay on the field a little bit better, which isn't really in our control for the most part, since there have been a lot of freak injuries that we've had the last two years," Crawford said. "I think that's the biggest thing. We have a lot of good players on this team, so I think if everyone can stay healthy and just have normal years -- not outstanding years -- just have normal years for everyone on the field, I think we have a good chance of making it a very memorable season for everybody."
Normal years from the five All-Stars on the infield would go a long way. So, too, would a breakthrough from Duggar, and perhaps a surprise from a Connor Joe or Michael Reed type. That would be a big part of any run.
A slightly better lineup would allow the Giants to do what they've done in the past: Win with pitching. The rotation has the potential to carry a heavy load, and the bullpen looks like the biggest strength on Opening Day.
[RELATED: Grading Giants' Opening Day roster by position group]
The Giants were 52-20 last year when scoring four or more runs, so a healthy and more consistent offense would go a long way toward guaranteeing meaningful September baseball. Even health and consistency in the first half alone could do that, convincing president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi to hold Madison Bumgarner, Will Smith and others as this group plays it out into September.
The players want more than that, of course. In the hours after Bochy announced his retirement, Giant after Giant talked of getting him one last shot at October. They believe there's a blueprint, and on Thursday, they'll get their first shot to prove it works.