SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As All-Stars, MVPs and future Hall of Famers filed into Scottsdale Stadium on Wednesday afternoon, even Gabe Kapler couldn't help but get a little excited. Yes, he's the manager of a big league team, but he's also a fan of the game.
And he didn't hesitate when asked who he was excited to see up close as the Giants took on Team USA.
"(Mike) Trout will always be that guy," Kapler said. "I think we're seeing the best player ever, so I'm always excited to be a part of that, in spring training, the regular season, just to catch a glimpse of that. I have so much respect for his work ethic and who he is on and off the field."
If Trout can stay healthy -- and perhaps finally break through in the postseason -- he could wind up with the GOAT title. Kapler noted that there's a long way to go, but there are few flaws on the resume thus far. He knows the game's history has plenty of contenders for that title, including two who played for the organization Kapler manages, but Trout is the best he's seen in his time in the game.
"I'm a blend of the eye test and traditional numbers and advanced numbers, and I think he checks just about every box," Kapler said in the afternoon. "So there is the caveat, like, if he stays healthy and if he continues to play many more years, I think he's going to have the counting stats. He's going to have the WAR stats. He's going to have the dominance part of it down. I just think at the end of the day it's going to be hard to argue against him."
Trout was the star of stars Wednesday, with Giants minor leaguers coming out and marveling as he took BP with Mookie Betts and players' families and friends gathering for photos and autographs. But once the game started, Team USA was reminded that even the best roster can be shut down by effective pitching.
The Giants held a lineup with Trout, Betts, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Trea Turner and others to just four hits and one run. It was an exhibition, a tuneup for a stocked team that's one of the favorites in the World Baseball Classic, but it also provided some valuable feedback for Giants pitchers. Two, in particular, came away looking ready for the regular season.
Anthony DeSclafani put Betts and Trout on to open the first and then got Kyle Schwarber to fly out to right, Goldschmidt to wave at a 93 mph fastball, and Arenado to fly out to left. DeSclafani allowed just one hit and struck out one in three innings. Sean Manaea followed with three innings of his own, allowing one run on three hits while striking out three.
"I think our entire pitching staff can feel pretty good about going through that lineup a couple of times," Kapler said. "You won't face a better lineup, ever."
DeSclafani and Manaea both showed good velocity in getting the Giants through six. They were followed by hitless innings from Scott Alexander, John Brebbia and Mauricio Llovera. While the other dugout was filled with stars, Giants pitchers said this was just another game once they were handed the ball.
"It was just spring training," Manaea said, shrugging. "Once I got on the mound it was just regular."
That was about the only part of this day that fit in with a normal spring training. The Giants did their usual pregame work and then many stuck around to chat with the members of Team USA and some of the coaches.
The staff is led by former Giant Mark DeRosa and includes Ken Griffey Jr., Andy Pettitte and former Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti. Even the press box looked different, with Juan Soto watching from a booth alongside the broadcasters.
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"You're around the cage and there's Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Trout and some of the best players -- I mean, those are two of the best players of all-time -- and there were a lot of people around to watch that. You can feel that energy," Kapler said. "Michael Young was out here as the assistant hitting coach -- he was a great player and one of my close friends. That was cool, and seeing J.T. Realmuto, that was awesome.
"Yeah, it was a fun day."