Giants

Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- Brian Sabean got his two starting pitchers. He got his center fielder. His roster is just about set, from the rotation to the lineup to the bullpen.

So ... what keeps the vice president of baseball operations up at night as the season approaches?

"Health. Health," Sabean said. "It's always in your gut, and more this year after last year."

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The 2015 Giants never really took a full crack at repeating. The injuries started just about with the first pitch, with Hunter Pence going down in spring training and Jake Peavy and Matt Cain going on the DL as the season started. It continued from there, leaving Sabean, Bobby Evans and the coaching staff with a roster that had just one starter (Madison Bumgarner) who stayed healthy and effective the whole season and two position players (Buster Posey and Matt Duffy) who avoided missing meaningful time because of an injury.

Oblique strains and concussions were the main culprits, but the most concerning injury may have been Joe Panik's back problem that pretty much knocked him out of the lineup for the final two months. After dealing with Freddy Sanchez and Marco Scutaro, the Giants found themselves with another second baseman with a back injury, only this time the player wasn't a veteran on his last legs, but rather a 24-year-old seemingly headed for a decade of All-Star appearances.

 

On Friday, Panik said that concern is a thing of the past. He declared himself "100 percent" and said he's "feeling normal." Panik was cleared by team doctors in mid-December.

"It was right around the time of all the signings," he said, smiling. "I was able to fly under the radar. I got tested and everything had healed up. I got cleared and was able to have my full offseason workouts. I'm good to go. I'm happy to be feeling good and going back out on the field to show that I'm healthy. My swing feels strong."

Even so, the Giants will play it safe. Panik said he will get with trainer Dave Groeschner to discuss a specific plan for spring training, and he's already planning on limiting the amount of time he spends in his spikes. Players generally get some back discomfort early in spring training as they adjust to a life of working out and standing around in their spikes, but Panik likely will take some additional time off to make sure his back doesn't act up again. He also said he would spend more time wearing regular exercise shoes that are more comfortable and easier on the body.

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Last season's back injury snuck up on Panik and the Giants, but he feels fully prepared now. His offseason routine changed a bit to prevent further injury.

"I've never done so much core work in my life," Panik said. "It was tough. I'm happy I'm done with my rehab."

The same goes for the rest of last season's walking wounded. Hunter Pence (oblique) said he feels "better than ever, better than before." Brandon Belt said his concussion cleared soon after the season and he's looking forward to avoiding the "stupid" injuries.

"You know, just taking balls off the face during BP," he said. "If I can avoid that, I'd like to."

Gregor Blanco (concussion) is ready for camp and Andrew Susac (wrist surgery) said he was back to normal three weeks after his September procedure. Every other player who dealt with problems in 2015 said he was back to normal, and manager Bruce Bochy said there are no lingering health concerns as the Giants prepare to report to Scottsdale Stadium on Wednesday.

All of this will change, of course. Players will go down in spring training, and Sabean knows there's no way to fully predict when or how it will happen. But for now his team is healthy, and that allows players to focus on the weight room, not Groeschner's office. On Friday, much of the talk was about a photo Matt Duffy -- or Matt Buffy, as some called him -- posted on Instagram

"I saw it," Belt said. "I'll probably do it with a heavier weight."