As the last team standing in 2012, the Giants already had a short offseason. Cutting even further into that break is the World Baseball Classic, which nine Giants players will be participating in.
The WBC, which was played for the first time in 2006, then again in 2009, will hold the semifinal and championship games at AT&T Park in March after pool play takes teams all over the world, from Japan to Puerto Rico.
Pitchers Ryan Vogelsong, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez and Jose Mijares will represent their home countries, while position players Pablo Sandoval, Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan will do the same.
For Vogelsong, preparing for games more meaningful than those found in the Cactus League is not so unusual, given his history.
“Every spring training prior to that has been to come in and try to win a job,” he said. “Or whether I was going to be in the rotation or the bullpen. So I had to be game-ready basically Day 1. So for me, this isn’t anything different than I’ve been through the past 14 years.”
The latest stage of that 14-year journey has been special for Vogelsong, as he’s added an All-Star nod and a World Series victory to his résumé. While he said putting on the Team USA jersey and running out onto the field would be yet another dream come true, he didn’t expect it to measure up to how he felt in October.
“I think it’s going to be very special, but I don’t think you can replace the feeling of being a world champion,” he said. “The way this team won it last year was very special for us in our clubhouse.
“Especially the way we came together as a team, we came together as a family. That is what made our World Series run extra-special for us. I don’t think winning a two-week tournament — as special as it is, almost like the Olympics — is not going to feel the same as I felt with those guys last year.”
While having players go all-out earlier than they are used to carries some risk to the players and the teams that invest millions in their talents, the players and coaches spend plenty of time making sure those who want to participate will be well taken care of during the competition.
“Baseball’s good about that,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of keeping an eye on the health of the players. “They’ll take care of these guys and make sure they’re not overused. ... It’ll be our job to get them ready to go game speed because it’s a different speed than practice and spring training. The guys that are going have been throwing, so they have a head start.”
The first WBC games will take place March 2 in Japan and Taiwan.