Giants have few questions entering spring training 

click to enlarge Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum is entering the most crucial season of his career and needs to figure out his delivery issues. - BEN MARGOT/AP PHOTO
  • Ben Margot/AP Photo
  • Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum is entering the most crucial season of his career and needs to figure out his delivery issues.
Reporting dates: Pitchers and catchers, Wednesday. Position players: Feb. 23

First full-squad workout: Feb. 24

3 THINGS TO WATCH: Rotation issues

ROTATION ISSUES

Despite returning everyone from a rotation that won the World Series, the Giants have questions with their starters — after Madison Bumgarner, of course. The return of right-hander Matt Cain from having bone spurs removed from his elbow is the key to the rotation. He is expected to be ready for spring training. Tim Hudson, 39, had cleanup surgery in January on the ankle he broke in the 2013 season and is expected to miss the early Cactus League games. That leaves two-time NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, July pickup Jake Peavy, underdog Ryan Vogelsong and starter-in-waiting Yusmeiro Petit to battle it out for two spots. Vogelsong and Petit seem slated for the bullpen.

WELCOME, NEWBIES

While the Giants kept most of the band together, they did lose two key offensive cogs in 2012 World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval and slugger Michael Morse to free agency. Journeyman Casey McGehee was signed to replace Sandoval at third base. McGehee was an extra-base machine with the Miami Marlins last season and the Santa Cruz native is sure to become a fan favorite once everyone is familiar with the story of young son Mack, who has cerebral palsy but will be a fixture at the ballpark. Nori Aoki comes to the Giants after a year in Kansas City and two in Milwaukee since leaving Japan. He is a contact hitter who rarely strikes out and could fall in love with Triples Alley.

OFFENSIVE UPGRADES

As a rookie, second baseman Joe Panik was a surprising steady force and worked his way to the No. 2 slot in the batting order, where he seemed to be in the middle of key postseason rallies. He seems to have that special something that could make him a fixture for years to come, providing he doesn’t experience a sophomore slump. With the defection of Sandoval, the Giants need another middle-of-the-order force and Brandon Belt could be that guy. While he was sidelined by two concussions last season, he hit 12 homers in 61 games — not including his big postseason blast — although hitting .243. The “Baby Giraffe” could be the next animal star in the Giants’ offense.

VETERAN TO WATCH: Tim Lincecum

Tim Lincecum: The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner is entering the most crucial season of his star-crossed career. “The Freak” needs to figure out his delivery issues after posting a 12-9 record and 4.74 ERA last season, which ended with him being in afterthought in the postseason bullpen. It is his second year of a two-year, $35 million contract, so this could be his last season with the Giants.

ROOKIE TO WATCH: Hunter Strickland

Hunter Strickland: After inciting a benches-clearing incident in the World Series, the hard-throwing reliever is looking to make his first Opening Day roster. A closer of the future, Strickland will need to show he has shaken off his postseason problem — giving up home runs. Strickland could be a valuable late-inning reliever, but roster decisions could send him to Triple-A.

POSITION BATTLE TO WATCH

How manager Bruce Bochy configures his bench will be interesting to watch. With infielder Joaquin Arias, outfielder Gregor Blanco and a catcher (Hector Sanchez if healthy), that leaves outfielders Travis Ishikawa, Juan Perez and Gary Brown, and infielders Ehire Adrianza and Matt Duffy battling for two spots. Playoff hero Ishikawa can also play first, which is a plus.

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Steve Drumwright

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