The San Francisco Giants have the Los Angeles Dodgers on their minds, and for good reason.
After winning two World Series titles in three years, the Giants last season took a backseat to their rivals, who raced to the NL West championship. The Dodgers' payroll soared to record heights since new ownership arrived, and the Giants aren't about to try catching up monetarily.
"Look, we're mindful of the Dodgers," Giants president Larry Baer said. "It would be crazy and disingenuous to say that we're not. Maybe it's a little bit like New York and Boston a lot of those years. We're fine with not matching them dollar for dollar because it's an art, not a science."
The bottom line: investing properly.
"It comes down to judgments, right?" Baer said. "If our judgments on drafting (right-hander Matt) Cain, (right-hander Tim) Lincecum, (catcher Buster) Posey, (left-hander Madison) Bumgarner, etc. in recent years weren't the right judgments, where would we be now? Those were judgment calls, those weren't money calls."
While the Dodgers' payroll will be in the $250 million range, the Giants' will around $150 million -- though that is about a $10 million spike from last season.
That is not the end of it, though. Baer said if the Giants need a financial boost to add needed players late in the season, they would make the investment.
"There's some firepower left if warranted," Baer said.
He added, "Nobody here has said the Giants can't make it on the field because they don't have enough money to spend. We want to spend it wisely and over time by locking guys up long term."
Among the Giants re-signed since last season: right fielder Hunter Pence, Lincecum and left-handed reliever Javier Lopez.
"I think the industry is going to continue to move toward locking up your own players," Baer said, "and we've been an example of that."
--LHP Madison Bumgarner was selected the Opening Day starter over RHP Matt Cain, who threw the opener last year. Bumgarner had a superior 2013 and earned the nod. Cain said he supports the decision and will help Bumgarner deal with any extra hoopla. "With the starting staff we've got here, being named Opening Day starter is unbelievable," Bumgarner said. "It's a humbling feeling. I feel blessed and thankful just to get that opportunity."
--2B Marco Scutaro didn't take any batting practice the first two weeks of spring training and was more involved in a back-strengthening routine. He was slowed last season by finger and back ailments, and the plan was to ease him into training camp. Scutaro, who was taking plenty of grounders, said his goal is to "get my body ready for 162 games." He flashed a smile because he obviously won't play every game. At 38, he will be rested frequently through the summer.
--RHP Ryan Vogelsong threw two scoreless innings in his exhibition debut, a nice sign for a pitcher coming off a down year. He was throwing as high as 90 mph, and his command was good. "I worked really hard on my delivery this offseason. I want to make my location more consistent than last year," he said. The Giants nixed his $6.5 million option and re-signed him for $5 million.
--C Buster Posey is OK with the new rule designed to limit collisions at the plate, preventing runners from going outside their path to the plate to take out a catcher. (Catchers can't block the plate without the ball). Posey said, "What I take away from it is, it eliminates the malicious collision, which is a good thing." Posey missed most of the 2011 season after he was clobbered by the Marlins' Scott Cousins.
--RHP Sergio Romo got rocked in his first outing, but it wasn't a big deal. Why? Because he didn't throw any sliders, his No. 1 pitch. Romo gave up six runs in his first Cactus League inning. He was working on his changeup.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'd be thrilled to be able to pitch the home opener. I'm new here. All the fans are seeing me in a Giants uniform for the first time. It'll be an exciting time for me, and (I will) be able to have a nice introduction to the city." -- RHP Tim Hudson, who is targeted to pitch the Giants' home opener.
LHP Madison Bumgarner
RHP Matt Cain
RHP Tim Lincecum
RHP Tim Hudson
RHP Ryan Vogelsong
Bumgarner is coming off a career year while Cain is coming off a down year, though he bounced back to his old self in the second half.
Lincecum and Vogelsong re-signed, the Giants dishing out $37 million over two years for Lincecum, hoping his evolution from strikeout king to pitch-to-contact will continue to flourish. Hudson is the lone newcomer, signed to a two-year, $22 million deal to bolster the rotation. There's little beyond the top five, so health is vital.
RHP Sergio Romo (closer)
RHP Santiago Casilla
LHP Jeremy Affeldt
LHP Javier Lopez
LHP George Kontos
RHP Heath Hembree
LHP David Huff
RHP George Kontos
Huff, who pitched for the Yankees and Indians last year, is the only pitcher in the group who wasn't with the Giants last season. He's a possible swing man and long reliever. Romo was a pleasant surprise in 2013, staying healthy and earning 38 saves. Affeldt, Lopez and Casilla have experience closing.
Hembree was called up in September and was impressive. With Romo a free agent after the season, perhaps Hembree could be groomed as a future closer. For now, he'll simply be given a chance to win a job on the opening day roster.
1. CF Angel Pagan
2. 2B Marco Scutaro
3. 1B Brandon Belt
4. C Buster Posey
5. 3B Pablo Sandoval
6. RF Hunter Pence
7. LF Michael Morse
8. SS Brandon Crawford
Pagan (hamstring) and Scutaro (back, finger) were slowed by injuries last season and are looking to bounce back to set the table for the run-producers. Morse was added to the mix, the only player on the roster who has hit at least 30 homers in a big-league season.
Sandoval could have a monster year now that he's in better shape and on the eve of free agency, and Posey is looking to rebound after slipping from his 2012 MVP season. Belt could be the key if he could show consistency with his average and power. Having solidified his stance and grip, trouble spots in the past, could help.
TOP ROOKIES: LHP Edwin Escobar (54 strikeouts, 13 walks in 54 innings at Double-A Richmond), 21, has a big upside, according to management, and could break into the majors by season's end. RHP Heath Hembree already made a quicker impact, having pitched 12 2/3 scoreless innings in September while striking out 12 and walking two. OF Gary Brown has fallen. The Giants' top pick in the 2010 draft, Brown 's worth has slipped from his monster year in Class A in 2011. He advanced to Double-A Richmond in 2012 and Triple-A Fresno in 2013 but hasn't impressed enough to contend for big-league roster spot.
--LHP David Huff (tender left shoulder) was scratched from a split-squad start Feb. 28. The ailment wasn't believed to be serious.
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