SAN FRANCISCO -- Given the state of the Giants' starting rotation, March will resemble October to some extent. That is, it'll be tempting to place significance on every pitch.
The group that helped bring San Francisco its third World Series triumph in five seasons last year will be highly scrutinized for the six weeks after pitchers and catchers report to camp in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Wednesday. For various reasons, the projected rotation's excellence no longer can be assumed, though it remains expected.
Madison Bumgarner should maintain his stamina after last year's 270-inning workload, which included a record 52 2/3 postseason innings.
"I felt great the whole time. I feel great now," Bumgarner said recently. Still, the Giants will watch their League Championship Series and World Series Most Valuable Player closely for the tiniest sign of fatigue or irregularity.
Matt Cain should return fully recovered from surgery to remove bone chips and spurs from his right elbow and ankle. He may immediately attempt to prove he's healthy.
"He's probably going to want to push a little bit because that's his personality," head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner said. Cain moved smoothly enough at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am to last through the tournament's final day. However, throwing repeatedly and effectively off a mound is more strenuous than blasting out of a sand trap.
Tim Lincecum should resume being Tim Lincecum. He's physically sound, and he has plenty of reasons to be motivated, including the near future. The right-hander is eligible for free agency after this season. Unlike many potential free agents, Lincecum doesn't need to position himself for a big payday. The Giants already gave him that with his two-year, $35 million contract.
But the two-time Cy Young Award winner, who recorded a 4.74 ERA while being forced to move to the bullpen in late August, must reaffirm to potential employers that he retains enough of the skill that once made him the best show in baseball.
Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson should bounce back from subpar postseason performances. Peavy possesses the savvy befitting a 13-year veteran, and Hudson is the Major Leagues' leading active winner. They're also 34 and 39, respectively. At those ages, sudden dips in performance aren't always aberrations. Moreover, Hudson required right ankle surgery during the offseason, though he should be ready for the start of the season.
These won't be the only Giants commanding extra attention. Center fielder Angel Pagan, recovering from back surgery, must prove that he remains capable of performing regularly. Pagan has claimed to be fit, but as general manager Brian Sabean said, "We'll see exactly when he gets to Arizona."
If Pagan is physically sound, manager Bruce Bochy's tinkering with the lineup during Cactus League games will proceed with little urgency. Competition for everyday roles likely will be nonexistent. The lineup's newcomers, third baseman Casey McGehee and left fielder Nori Aoki, ought to mesh smoothly with the returnees.
"They're both really tough outs," catcher Buster Posey said of the newcomers. For opponents, Posey added, "Those aren't the guys you want to see come up with a guy on third with less than two outs, because you know you're not going to get a strikeout."
Pitchers and catchers report
Full squad reports
Monday, Feb. 23
First Spring Training game
Away vs. Oakland, March 3, 12:05 p.m. PT
Away vs. Arizona, April 6, 7:10 p.m. PT
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.