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Bochy looking for tougher mentality

Bochy looking for tougher mentality

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The 2007 season had been over for less than 24 hours, but Bruce Bochy already knew what he wanted for 2008.

The Giants manager was weary of the team's tendency to fade in the clutch, as its 39-55 record in one- and two-run decisions indicated. He sensed that although his players generally gave a sincere effort, not everybody made winning his highest priority.

So when Bochy met with reporters the day after last season's finale, he defined what he wanted from his ballclub. One particular statement drew extra attention.

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"I don't know for sure if we quite had the warrior spirit at times that I would like," Bochy said. "That's a mentality I'd like to change -- make sure that we're all going out there playing to win. It's not that the guys aren't trying, but there is a difference between going out there playing to win versus trying to survive or not make a mistake."

Bochy and his coaches have strived this spring to bring out the inner warrior in every Giant -- a necessary process in the absence of the club's chieftain, Barry Bonds, whom management declined to re-sign after 15 memorable years. Without Bonds, the Giants need a new identity, and it might as well be the hard charging yet smart persona that Bochy seeks. Recently, Bochy discussed the spring's developments as he approached his second season at the helm of the Giants.

MLB.com: What encouraging signs have you seen this spring?

Bochy: We've put the guys through a lot this spring. It's getting better with our execution. With pitching and defense, we definitely have room for improvement. The last week, we've played crisper ball. We knew it was going to take time this spring. We're seeing some things now that are definite signs of improvement. I'm very happy with the way we're going about it.

MLB.com: What are the areas of concern?

Bochy: We're going to have to catch the ball. We've moved a couple of guys around the infield and done a lot of work with Ortie [Dan Ortmeier] at first base, so the errors don't surprise me. But the difference between us being mediocre and being good will be our execution -- whether it's defense, pitching or running the bases.

MLB.com: You entered spring with the goal of instilling the importance of good baserunning. Has progress been made?

Bochy: I've been very happy with the baserunning. They really have hustled.

MLB.com: Do you think guys have embraced what hitting coach Carney Lansford has shown them?

Bochy: Yes, I do. You see that part of the offense improving -- the situational hitting. You can see them trying hard, and we're starting to see results.

MLB.com: What younger players do you see making an impact?

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Bochy: Start with [Brian] Bocock, a guy who's played [Class] A ball. He's starting most of these spring games and could be our Opening Day shortstop. I think he's done a great job and solidified the infield. [Eugenio] Velez has really improved his defense and worked very hard this spring. Fred Lewis and Rajai Davis are doing what we were hoping they would. But it's going to be an adjustment for them when the season starts. I can see Davis playing against left-handers, but it'll be a challenge for me to give Lewis the at-bats to keep him sharp. Certainly the way he has played this spring, he deserves some playing time.

MLB.com: How disruptive have the injuries been?

Bochy: They've been setbacks, no question. Omar [Vizquel] is a guy who solidifies our infield. In Noah [Lowry], you lose your No. 3 starter. But I've always said that there's no point in talking about it. You're going to have to deal with the injuries and move on. We're not looking for any excuses. That's when you have to have guys step up.

MLB.com: You've stressed a lot that you need production up and down the lineup. I guess you can't emphasize that enough.

Bochy: We're going to need production throughout the order -- productive outs, getting guys over. Everybody's going to have to contribute.

MLB.com: That said, there'll be extra attention on Aaron Rowand, since he was the Giants' main offseason acquisition. What are you going to look for from him?

Bochy: Just consistency. We're not looking for Aaron to carry the ballclub. He's part of the equation in the lineup. Along with what Aaron brings in that clubhouse, the way he plays, he leads by example. And I think players feed off that.

MLB.com: How concerned are you about the spring record?

Bochy: For the most part, you're not overly concerned. But at the same time, it's important for us to finish strong. Part of it is we have to believe we can win. As we go through this transformation, we're better than some people think we are.

MLB.com: Do you feel like the "warrior spirit" you wanted is growing among the players, or is that something you won't really find out until the regular season?

Bochy: We'll find out when the season starts. But, to get back to it, I like the way they've gone about their business -- the effort, how they're running the bases, how they're getting down the line, trying to take the extra base, trying to do the little things as far as the situational hitting. I've been pleased with that.

MLB.com: Do you foresee the division being as tough as it always has been?

Bochy: Yeah, I do. We're going to face good pitching on a daily basis. That's why I say our execution will play a major part in our season.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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