SCOTTSDALE — Angel Pagan has the same spot in the Scottsdale Stadium clubhouse as he did last year, except this time it’s a bit more symbolic. Two lockers to his left is Denard Span, and if you stand in front of the row you see the new outfield formation staring back at you: Span in center, Pagan off to his side in left field.
Pagan on Tuesday addressed the change for the first time since the January deal that brought Span to San Francisco for the next three years. He said he won’t fight the move to left and never thought of asking for a trade, but he also admitted that the position change caught him by surprise.
“I’ll be honest, I’ll be really honest, I was a little surprised by the move. When that’s your position and you’re asked to play a different position, I was surprised, but at the same time Span is a great center fielder and great player,” Pagan said. “Every player has pride and you have to sit down and understand that at some point you have to make a move. I prepared myself really well for center field and the team asked me to move to left — I’m on board.
“I’m on board 100 percent. I’m here to do whatever the team asks me to do.”
Pagan hasn’t played left field since 2010, when he started 22 games there for the Mets. He has been a center fielder throughout his time with the Giants, but it became clear last season that a defensive upgrade up the middle could help the team’s cause. Advanced metrics showed Pagan was one of the worst defensive center fielders in the big leagues, but he still believes he has the athleticism to handle his favorite spot.
The Giants haven’t decided yet if Pagan will back up Span on days when the new center fielder, who dealt with injuries last year, gets a day off. It’s possible Pagan shifts back and forth, but Gregor Blanco also could handle backup duty at all three outfield spots. For now, the only certainty is that Span is lined up to play center field and lead off (another longtime Pagan spot) on Opening Day. Pagan said he’s looking forward to having a conversation with his new teammate.
“I don’t have any hard feelings at all,” he said. “I want him to know that I’m on board and I’m ready to get as far as I can and reach for a gapper with him. Hopefully we can play the best defense we can for the pitching staff we have.”
The Giants kept Pagan in the loop as they finalized a deal with Span, and they were so worried about a potentially sticky situation that they didn’t immediately name Span the center fielder after agreeing to a deal. It wasn’t until FanFest earlier this month that Bochy made it official, and that announcement came after a telephone conversation with Pagan.
“I had to sit down with my family and explore what was going on and accept it and move on,” Pagan said. “Right now I’m with the Giants, and I’m here to win a championship in 2016. Anything that involves business I just try to stay away because I had no control over it.”
Bochy is hopeful that the switch helps the oft-injured Pagan stay on the field.
“I think it could benefit him,” Bochy said. “There’s a little more wear and tear playing center field.”
Pagan has played just 454 games in four seasons with the Giants, twice failing to reach the 100-game mark. He said he changed trainers in the offseason and worked more on flexibility and stretching. He also had a minor procedure on his right knee, described as an injection to remove scar tissue. After four weeks off, Pagan got back in the gym, eager to push past a season when he wasn’t healthy enough to drive the ball and ended up hitting just .262 with a .635 OPS.
“I feel rejuvenated,” Pagan said. “I’m ready to work.”