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Why Donnie Ecker compares Giants' rebuild to 49ers' rise to dominance

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AP

Why Donnie Ecker compares Giants' rebuild to 49ers' rise to dominance

Donnie Ecker is a man of action. He would much rather show you on the field than tell you about it. 

Ecker, 33, has a big task ahead of him in 2020. The Giants named Ecker, a Los Altos native, as their new hitting coach in December. He respects the veterans on San Francisco's roster, though, he knows this team has a ways to go with turning around the offense. 

For Ecker, it all starts with being truthful when looking at the roster. 

"We were bottom three in every single offensive category three years in a row," Ecker recently said on KNBR. "Even if you're the No. 1 offense and you won the World Series, you're starting from sratch with a new team. With our hitting unit, that's a blessing. We're starting scratch." 

The Giants finished 27th in team batting average (.239) last season, 28th in OPS (.694), 26th in home runs (167) and 28th in runs scored (678). They have a ways to go, to say the least, after enduring their third straight losing season. 

Ecker is looking at a different Bay Area team that recently pulled themselves from the bottom to the top in a few seasons as something the Giants can use as a blueprint for success. No, not the Warriors. 

"What I will say is that I grew up in the Bay Area. The fan base, the community, the Giants brand -- it raised me," Ecker said, "I feel like I really understand it, and all you have to do is look at Jed York, John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan and what they've built. I was around in those in between years after [Jim] Harbaugh and there's a lot of parallels if you look at what Farhan is doing and Scott Harris and what the 49ers ... how they intellectually had a process to build a roster, used their finances strategically and objectively.

"They've really built themselves on paper for a really sustainable run. There's a process to make really smart, small victory decisions over and over and over. Even in player development we're looking at that." 

Kyle Shanahan took over as the 49ers new head coach ahead of the 2017 season and picked nine-time Pro Bowl safety John Lynch as his general manager. San Francisco had won seven games combined the two seasons before the Shanahan-Lynch duo took over. And then, Shanahan lost his first nine games as a head coach. 

[RELATED: Who starts for Giants vs. Dodgers on Opening Day]

All was not well at Levi's Stadium. But after winning 10 games between 2017 and '18, Shanahan led the 49ers to a 13-3 record this season, good for the NFC West title and No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. If they beat the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game, Shanahan will pull a Bill Walsh and lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl in his third season at the helm.

The Giants are projected to win only 71 games this season, but have one of the most improved farm systems in baseball. They aren't exactly on their way to a World Series this year, however, it's clear president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has a plan in place with his eyes focused on the future.

Why Gabe Kapler is so excited to finally manage Giants against Dodgers

Why Gabe Kapler is so excited to finally manage Giants against Dodgers

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants, appropriately, will kick off the Gabe Kapler Era against the Dodgers.

That's where Kapler became a candidate to one day lead a club while serving as a director of player development for four years, where he learned a lot of the methods that he's now putting to use with the rival. Kapler spent plenty of time with the current and next generation of Dodgers stars, and on Thursday he noted it'll be cool to see young righty Tony Gonsolin start against Dereck Rodriguez. He said he watched a lot of Saturday's opponents, including Gonsolin, closely while working for "that other club."

Yes, Kapler is getting into the rivalry already. He wouldn't say "Dodgers" out loud while discussing Saturday's spring opener. 

"I'm just interested in the San Francisco Giants," he said, smiling, when pushed by reporters. "I've got black and orange on and I'm pretty proud of that."

Saturday is a day that Kapler has mostly avoided talking about. When asked about the start of games, he has pointed out repeatedly that the Giants have way too much work to do on back fields and in the bullpens to think too much about the Cactus League season. But it's here now, and Kapler admitted that this will be a meaningful day for him. 

For the first time since 2006, somebody other than Bruce Bochy will be on that top step. That has been an adjustment for the fan base, and many have voiced their displeasure, but the ticket Saturday is still a hot one. Mix a Cactus League opener on a Saturday with the fact that it's Giants-Dodgers and you have the most expensive ticket in spring training. According to TickPick, the average ticket for Saturday's game is $96, more than $25 more than the next hottest spring ticket (a Yankees-Blue Jays game) in 2020. 

[RELATED: Bruce Bochy visits Giants camp]

If the weather cooperates -- it's supposed to rain all day -- Kapler will give the crowd a nice preview of the season. Brandon Crawford has been pushed back a few days because he had flu-like symptoms this week, but the rest of Saturday's projected lineup is full of potential 2020 regulars:

Duggar CF
Longoria 3B
Belt 1B
Posey C
Davis RF
Slater LF
Dubon SS
Solano 2B
Ruf DH
Rodriguez SP

Bruce Bochy visits Giants camp, plans to spend time with Gabe Kapler

Bruce Bochy visits Giants camp, plans to spend time with Gabe Kapler

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Pablo Sandoval grabbed a glove from his bag, looked up and saw a familiar figure 20 yards to his left. 

"Bochy!" Sandoval yelled, waving. 

Bruce Bochy, the Giants' longtime manager and current special advisor, stayed away early in camp, trying to show respect for the new manager, Gabe Kapler. But with Team France about to start working out in Tucson, Bochy, its manager, drove to Arizona and visited his former players. He said he plans to be around off and on in the coming weeks, and several players made plans to spend more time with Bochy while he's in the area. 

Kapler did, too. He ran over to shake Bochy's hand after live batting practice and the two talked about getting together. Kapler called Bochy a "legend" and said he hoped he would speak with the full team at some point. 

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"That's something I want to talk to Boch about and gauge his comfort level, but I'm really happy he's here," Kapler said. "It brings a lot of energy to the fields and it's nice to look in there and see Boch there."

Kapler and Bochy met during the search for the new manager and they had some conversations after the decision was made. Kapler said they've been in contact since, although it has been a busy period for both men. Kapler had very little time to put together a new staff and he crisscrossed the country meeting with players. Bochy did some traveling, including a visit to Miami for Sandoval's wedding. He now is preparing for World Baseball Classic qualifying. 

Bochy and Team France will play their first game March 13 in Tucson. His brother, Joe, will be his bench coach and his son, Brett, will be one of his pitchers. Bochy's team will be overmatched -- his best player is likely to be former Giant Alen Hanson, who has some French blood -- but he has thrived in those situations in the past.

[RELATED: Why Giants might not name closer before they break camp]

Kapler's first camp since taking over for Bochy has encouraged players to find any possible way to get better, and that's something the manager takes to heart. He is constantly looking for ways to improve. So what can Kapler learn from spending time with Bochy in his first season with the Giants?

"I think Boch has a really good feel for baseball from all angles," Kapler said. "I don't think there's an area of the game that he's not very developed in. Trying to get a real well-rounded view of the game through his lens is going to be really valuable for me. 

"I also think he has a really good way of just connecting with people, players, media, staff. I want to do a lot of listening when I have a chance to sit down with Boch."