3 questions for Giants to answer at camp

3 questions for Giants to answer at camp

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Thank you, Angel Pagan. Along with Kelby Tomlinson, Josh Osich and maybe a few others.

Without these individuals, the Giants' Spring Training camp, which opened with Thursday's initial workout for pitchers and catchers, might lack the healthy tension that competition brings.

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Most of the Giants' spring issues lie below the surface. The projected starting rotation is set, but the order of appearance is not. The lineup has been established, but bench roles must be addressed.

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Giants manager Bruce Bochy could be tempted to keep three catchers on the Opening Day squad, given the club's depth at the position, but likely will refrain from doing so. Regardless of what Bochy and the club's brain trust decide, he shares the optimism that stokes baseball people at this time of year.

"When you get to Spring Training, you want to have hope that your guys are going to do something exciting," he said.

The Giants know that they'll hear plenty about being the smart pick to win the National League West, given their offseason acquisitions (center fielder Denard Span and right-handers Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija). Also, this even-numbered year gives them the chance to maintain the pattern they established by winning the World Series in 2010, '12 and '14.

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"It don't matter to us whether we're considered the favorites or not, underdogs or whatever," left-hander Madison Bumgarner said. "We don't care about that. We know what we have to go out and do, and that's what we're focused on doing."

MLB.com concludes its multi-part Spring Training preview by analyzing three questions confronting the Giants during their six-week stay in Arizona:

1. Exactly what will happen with the leadoff spot and center field?
Everybody knows the stock answer: Span will become San Francisco's starting center fielder and leadoff hitter, forcing Pagan to move to left field and a lower spot in the batting order. This doesn't take intangibles into account. Expect Pagan to enter camp highly motivated. He's in the final year of a four-year, $40 million contract. At 34 years old, he probably wants to play beyond this year. A boxing aficionado, Pagan might accept the switch in roles, but he'll probably find ways to fight to retain his previous responsibilities. Don't count out Pagan, who has proven capable of galvanizing the lineup when he's at his best. Also consider that Span must prove that he has healed from the groin and hip injuries that limited him to 61 games last season with the Nationals.

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2. Who will fill the gaps from the bench?
Given Bochy's penchant for using his entire roster and the plethora of day games following night games that necessitates resting regulars, the Giants must assemble a crew of reliable reserves who can consistently deliver quality performances. Tomlinson impressed observers last year by hitting .303 while replacing injured Joe Panik at second base for the season's final two months. Tomlinson must reaffirm not only his offensive prowess, but also prove that he's defensively capable of roaming from spot to spot around the infield. Outfielder-first baseman Kyle Blanks, a non-roster invitee whose tenure with the Padres makes him familiar to Giants fans, is likely to sustain a strong bid for a reserve role.

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3. Aside from the rotation and closer Santiago Casilla, what's up with the rest of the pitching staff?
Finding a replacement for left-hander Jeremy Affeldt will rank among the spring's top priorities. Affeldt defied typecasting with his ability to perform any role against any hitter, whether righty or lefty. One possible successor for Affeldt is Osich, the left-hander who finished 2-0 with a 2.20 ERA in 35 appearances as a rookie last season. Righties hit only .213 off Osich. Left-handers posted a .222 batting average off him. Also, keep an eye on non-roster left-hander Ricky Romero, if only because of his All-Star pedigree (2011 with Toronto). He's intriguing because knee problems, not arm trouble, hastened his fall from the big league level.

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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.