MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Roberts not counting out Giants

Dodgers manager surprised by rival's last-place status

Roberts not counting out Giants

SAN DIEGO -- Accessing the opening of the season in the National League West, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said the biggest surprise is the play of the archrival Giants, who were languishing in last place heading into Sunday's action against the Reds in Cincinnati.

But Roberts isn't counting them out. After all, it's a long season with 131 games left to play for the Dodgers after a rare rainout at Petco Park against the Padres on Sunday. And his old friend, Bruce Bochy, is the Giants' manager.

"This is a team that led the division for almost four months last year. And to be where they're at? Yeah, it's a surprise," Roberts told MLB.com.

"You don't want to get into too deep a hole at this time of year. But we've seen this from the Giants: If they have a pulse they find a way to get back in it. You look at the last six years and there have been numerous seasons where people have counted them out and they found a way to get back."

The Giants won the World Series in 2010, '12 and '14 and made the playoffs last year, only to lose in a National League Division Series to the Cubs, because their once-reliable bullpen decomposed.

The Giants won the division in 2010 and '12, but to Roberts' point, they found a way in '14 to snare a Wild Card slot when the season seemed lost late in September. They went to Pittsburgh and soundly beat the Pirates in the NL Wild Card Game, ultimately winning the World Series over the Royals in Kansas City on the final pitch of Game 7 with the tying run nestled at third.

Last year, Roberts' first as Dodgers manager, the Giants were in first place every day from April 29 to Aug. 15, but 11 losses in their first 13 games after the All-Star break led to a 30-42 second half.

Still, the Giants clinched the second NL Wild Card berth on the final day of the regular season with a resounding victory over the Dodgers. The Giants traveled to Citi Field to play the Mets and Conor Gillaspie hit a three-run homer in the ninth off Jeurys Familia to break up a scoreless tie.

Their run ended when the bullpen blew the NL Championship Series to Chicago in the ninth inning of Game 4. And with injuries this season to Madison Bumgarner, Denard Span, Brandon Crawford, Will Smith and Jarrett Parker, their window of success might be slamming shut.

Tim Lincecum is gone and Matt Cain appears to be nearing the end of his career. Bumgarner is out until midseason after hurting his left shoulder in a dirt bike accident. Buster Posey was on the DL because of a concussion after being hit by D-backs right-hander Taijuan Walker in the first inning of the home opener. Even Bochy had his second heart scare in two years and missed two games last month in Kansas City.

In addition, the bullpen essential to those World Series titles -- Brian Wilson, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla is a memory.

"The list goes on and on and the names will go down in history, the teams will go down in history," former Giants third-base coach Tim Flannery tweeted on Sunday in response to the angst of Giants fans. "You can't take that away, but to think that there was some magic formula we tapped into to make it happen is absurd."

The constant, though, Roberts said, is Bochy, the manager who led the Padres to four division titles and one World Series in 12 seasons, and the Giants to all this success since he came aboard in 2007.

"I do believe he'll find a way of figuring it out, I really do," said Roberts, who played his last four seasons for Bochy in San Diego and San Francisco. "He just doesn't let his team quit. He doesn't panic and just continues to prepare his guys and have his guys ready to play. And that's the thing over the course of 162 that makes a difference. Those guys are just professional, they just are."

Like everyone else, Roberts is concerned about Bochy's health. The former catcher just turned 62 and managed his 1,800th regular season win, 15th on the all-time list. Bochy has two more years beyond this on his contract.

Flannery said he quit after the 2014 World Series because the game had eaten him up.

"It's killed friends of mine I had to bury," Flannery said. "The game's a beast."

Bochy had two stents implanted in arteries leading to his heart during Spring Training of 2015. Last month, he underwent a procedure called a cardiac ablation, which sends an electric pulse through the system to correct an irregular heartbeat.

"You know what? He's a good friend, so of course I'm a little bit concerned," Roberts said. "There have been times over the last few years he's had some episodes with the heart fluttering. When you hear things like that, of course it's upsetting."

Roberts is a survivor of Hodgkin's lymphoma -- a cancer of the lymphatic system -- and underwent chemotherapy while a coach with the Padres in 2010. He knows the score.

Roberts is still standing. So is Bochy. And Roberts knows it's way too early to count Bochy's Giants out.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.