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Three Bright Spots for the San Francisco Giants Heading Into 2014

For the Orange & Black, 2013's Disappointment Leaves Room for Optimism

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Winning the division two years in a row is difficult. Going from first to worst, well, that might be even harder.

And, yet, despite retaining almost its entire roster from last year's title-winning team, San Francisco verges on 90 losses for the first time since 2008.

Down, out, and now smarting from its descent into the NL West basement, it hasn't been easy for San Francisco to remain optimistic.

Yet, there is reason to be hopeful, and it starts with Sergio Romo, a pair of Brandons, and Ryan Vogelsong.

SERGIO ROMO

He's not the flame-throwing closer fans are accustomed to seeing, but Sergio Romo certainly has the swagger part down.

Since moving from set-up man to San Francisco's ninth-inning answer, Romo has converted 46-of-51 save opportunities.

Most reassuring for manager Bruce Bochy: After suffering through the anxiety of Brian Wilson's sometimes erratic command, Romo has made opponents earn their base runners. Of the major league's 17 closers with 30 or more save appearances, only Edward Mujica has surrendered fewer walks.

THE TWO BRANDONS

One-half of San Francisco's infield, 26-year-old Brandon Crawford and 25-year-old Brandon Belt have provided more than just youthful energy at a bargain price -- both are making $530,000 in 2013 -- they're also enjoying their best offensive season as professionals.

Already with more hits than he had all of last year, Crawford is at last hitting well enough to justify his dazzling defense's place in the lineup. He's more than doubled his previous season's home run total and trails only Hunter Pence in games played. His .320 OBP won't shatter any records, but it's a palatable figure considering the shortstop's nifty glove work.

It's Brandon Belt, however, who has provided the Orange & Black with the biggest reason for optimism, an unlikely notion just four weeks ago.

But since adopting the grip adjustment coaches have long asked him to make, the affectionately named "Giraffe" has been a near impossible out. He batted .350 in August, tacked on five round-trippers to what was already a career-high in home runs, and his 31 doubles rank second among NL first baseman.

RYAN VOGELSONG

Sporting a 2.98 ERA since returning from the disabled list, Ryan Vogelsong has given Giants management one less thing to worry about this offseason.

He allowed 3 or fewer earned runs in five August starts and, in a recent outing against the division-leading Pittsburgh Pirates, tossed 8 innings of shut-out ball.

While management had hoped the righty's resurgence would also key his club's revival, it has, at the very least, provided enough evidence to support picking up the 36-year-old's 2014 option.

John Foletta is a Yahoo contributor who also covers Cal Athletics for Rivals.com. A Bay Area native, Foletta is a lifelong San Francisco Giants follower.

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