The Giants open the 2012 season today, and the schedule makers wasted no time in giving them a shot at revenge on the team that overtook them for the National League West crown in 2011.
San Francisco opens the season on the road against the Arizona Diamondbacks, who won last year with an explosive offense and two aces in Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson. They also added Trevor Cahill in a trade with the A’s to give them an upgraded starting rotation.
Arizona also boasts a player in Justin Upton who some think can make a serious run at winning the MVP. Upton hit .289 with 31 home runs and 21 stolen bases last year and finished fourth in MVP voting. Upton will have a new partner in the outfield after Jason Kubel signed as a free agent after hitting .273 in just 99 games with the Minnesota Twins last season.
The Giants have tried to adjust by overhauling their offense. The biggest area of change will be in the outfield, where two trade acquisitions will make their regular-season debut in the orange and black with high expectations for the way they can upgrade the San Francisco offense.
Melky Cabrera, traded from the Kansas City Royals for Jonathan Sanchez, and Angel Pagan, acquired from the New York Mets for Andres Torres, both bring an extra burst of speed to a lineup that lacked that quality last year. Add youngster Gregor Blanco into the mix, and manager Bruce Bochy said that extra gear will help the team score in more ways than one.
“Really, we have a couple guys who can steal a base when [opponents] know they’re stealing the base,” he said. “So it’s nice to have that type of speed. It’s not so much stealing a base, it’s going first to third, scoring from first on a double, things like that. That’s going to make a difference if we make this offense more consistent.”
Aubrey Huff has the left-field job, but he’ll have the team’s fourth outfielder, Nate Schierholtz, nipping at his heels. Schierholtz hit just .200 during spring training, but Bochy said he’ll allow him to play his way back into a bigger role.
“He just hasn’t gotten on track yet,” Bochy said. “This is how it’s starting, it doesn’t mean this is how it’s going to be. He’ll help out like he has done in the past, coming off the bench, double-switching, the occasional start. He gets it going, he finds his swing, things change.”