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Core remains intact for champion Giants

The SportsXchange

The San Francisco Giants have been down this road before, trying to repeat a World Series championship.

They won it all in 2010 and had high hopes for 2011, but Buster Posey's home-plate collision in late May ended his season and, for all practical purposes, the Giants' hopes of returning to the playoffs.

Now they're coming off another title and looking similar.

Like last time, general manager Brian Sabean brought virtually the entire team back, re-signing free agents Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Jeremy Affeldt for a combined $78 million and retaining arbitration-eligible Hunter Pence, who'll make $13.8 million.

So the lineup is intact, featuring Posey, the reigning National League MVP, and Pablo Sandoval, the World Series MVP. The rotation is the same with Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner coming off solid seasons (Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito did their best work in the postseason). And the back end of the bullpen is back: Sergio Romo, Affeldt, Javier Lopez and Santiago Casilla.

The only missing players from the playoff roster are Ryan Theriot, Xavier Nady, Aubrey Huff and Guillermo Mota, none of whom were core players.

So the primary pieces remain in place. Now it's a question of whether they can duplicate their success.

Players to watch in spring training include Lincecum (a spectacular postseason out of the bullpen salvaged his year), Zito (is he finally living up to that contract?), Romo (how will he handle the pressure of entering a season as a closer for the first time?), Vogelsong (will pitching in the World Baseball Classic affect his preparation?), Pence (he says he's going to be quicker on the field and more selective at the plate), Sandoval (his weight is always a hot topic) and Scutaro (will the momentum carry over for the prince of the postseason?).

The Giants were hoping to add a right-handed outfielder with pop but didn't, so Gregor Blanco is the left fielder for now, though Andres Torres -- who re-signed after a year with the New York Mets -- will compete for playing time.

No NL team has won back-to-back World Series since the 1975-76 Reds, so manager Bruce Bochy is battling history, not to mention an upgraded (and very expensive) Los Angeles Dodgers team. Two years ago, the Giants failed to reach the playoffs in the wake of their World Series title, and now they're making another run.

This time, they're banking on Posey staying healthy.
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