Giants counting on Pagan to transition smoothly

Span set to take over in center field and leadoff spot as vet moves to left

Giants counting on Pagan to transition smoothly

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants' braintrust believes that the club's Opening Day lineup is set. Angel Pagan might have other ideas, however.

It remains to be seen how smoothly San Francisco's outfield will develop. It's anticipated that Denard Span, who capitalized on free agency to sign a three-year, $31 million deal, will supplant Pagan as the Giants' leadoff hitter and center fielder. Pagan, who typically has occupied those roles when he's healthy, has become the projected left fielder who will employ his switch-hitting skills lower in the batting order.

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Barring an untimely injury to Span, who endured three surgeries in a nine-month stretch from Dec. 2014-Sept. 2015 (two groin procedures and a left hip procedure), Pagan must adjust to new roles. Giants manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged the challenge this might represent for Pagan, a 10-year veteran who was hampered by right knee problems last year. However, Bochy expects Pagan, whose four-year, $40 million contract expires after this season, to place the team's priorities first -- as numerous other Giants have done since the team became a perennial World Series contender in 2010.

"A major reason for our success has been how unselfish the guys have been," Bochy said recently, though he added, "I'm sure [Pagan's] preference is to stay in center field."

Pagan has played 109 career games in left, starting 81. He hasn't manned left field since 2010, when he appeared in 27 games at that spot for the Mets, including 22 starts.

Pagan's RBI single

Bochy intends to meet with Pagan as soon as possible after Spring Training begins this week in Scottsdale, Ariz. He'll surely emphasize to the 34-year-old that he remains essential to the Giants' bid to return to the postseason.

Pagan's position in the batting order may be another issue. Pagan has hit leadoff almost exclusively since 2013, starting 213 games at the top of the order compared to nine elsewhere. However, though he led off 79 times in 2012, his first year with the Giants, Pagan also hit second through sixth. The alternate spots he occupied most frequently were fifth (45 starts) and sixth (17).

Pagan batted .262 with a career-low .635 OPS in 133 games last season. He accumulated 27 extra-base hits in 551 plate appearances and didn't hit his first home run of the season until Sept. 5 at Colorado. At that time, his streak of 697 at-bats without a homer was the longest in the Majors.

Span hit .301 with a .796 OPS but was limited to 61 games due to his various injuries. He averaged 633 plate appearances per year from 2012-14.

Span ready for 2016 with Giants

Pitchers and catchers report
Wednesday

First workout for pitchers and catchers
Thursday

Position players report
Monday, Feb. 22

First full-squad workout
Tuesday, Feb. 23

Cactus League opener against Los Angeles Angels, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Wednesday, March 2

Regular-season opener at Milwaukee
Monday, April 4

Home opener against Los Angeles Dodgers
Thursday, April 7

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.