SCOTTSDALE. Ariz. -- The best quote after Bruce Bochy announced his retirement last spring came from Jeff Samardzija, an old-school pitcher who loved playing for one of the last old-school managers.
"He's just a dying breed," Samardzija said last February. "Unfortunately after this you're going to have 30 puppets out there."
You would think, then, that Samardzija had some skepticism when the Giants in November hired Gabe Kapler, who always will have to fight the perception that he's an extension of president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. But on his first day in camp, Samardzija, who wasn't at FanFest, said repeatedly that he's excited about Kapler and the new staff.
Samardzija spent the previous offseason in San Francisco so he could rehab a shoulder injury and he repeated the routine this year. That meant he quite often ran into Kapler in the weight room at Oracle Park.
"He's a former Cross-Fit champ, which is impressive. That's what I took from the offseason with him," Samardzija said, smiling. "He asked me a couple times to work out with him and I respectfully declined every time. He's an intense guy but not like overly intense, where it's exhausting to where you want to avoid the person, which I think can happen sometimes with people that are just really ultra-intense.
"But he just comes from the point of wanting the players to like him and be a players' manager, so all of that intensity and that energy to me just comes across as going in the right direction for the right reasons."
Samardzija, a 12-year veteran, is starting his fifth season where he has played for a new manager, so he didn't anticipate much of an adjustment when the Giants brought Kapler in. He shrugged as he talked about a story he read that called Bochy and Kapler polar opposites.
"That's true, but not in a bad sense," Samardzija said. "There are a lot of different ways to skin a cat, and I'm excited to see his way."
Kapler's way will lean heavily on Samardzija, at least in the first year. He has mentioned the right-hander often in offseason interviews and is counting on Samardzija and Johnny Cueto to lead an inexperienced staff. There's a chance Samardzija is the Opening Day starter, but regardless, the Giants want the 35-year-old to set the tone.
"I'm a pretty old-school guy. I like talent. I love finding diamonds in the rough, I think it's important and it's necessary to win and do the things you want to do," Samardzija said. "But when it comes down to it you've got to have them dogs out there that love playing and love going out and that's just what they do, it doesn't matter what they're getting paid or where they're at. That's what excites me about this staff and Kap and with Farhan -- to be successful as a team you need to have 25 guys who are here for the same reason which is to play hard and love this game.
"My job is to go out and set the tone for the young kids and how to get this done and the mentality to go about it. I'm just looking forward to getting 25 guys on this team who live and breath baseball and understand that every day is important, every win is important. Even if you lose, how you lose is important.
"What kind of image are you setting for the other team and how hard to you play? I think that's important."
That's right in line with what Kapler has been preaching. The Giants want a competitive camp and Samardzija, a former football star, seems ready to step to the front of the line. He was all smiles as he walked into a new clubhouse at Scottsdale Stadium, and he said he is eager to get to work with a new manager and a staff that is largely made up of coaches who are younger than Samardzija is.
"Once we figure out who are minor league invites and who the coaches are, we'll go from there," he joked.