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Play Ball: Champion Giants begin effort to win in ‘odd year’

San Francisco Giants catcher Andrew Susac, left, talks with relief pitcher Santiago Casilla after arriving for spring training baseball workouts Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The San Francisco Giants roll in even years, winning the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

Enough of that pattern, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

“We want to have a lot of fun in an odd year,” he said while San Francisco pitchers and catchers reported for spring training on Wednesday.

Pitchers and catchers also reported to the Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians and Philadelphia Phillies. The rest of the major league teams will get going over the next few days, half of them in Arizona, half in Florida.

As usual, pitching should be San Francisco’s strength. Bochy said he’s pretty set on the five-man rotation that will open the season.

He didn’t name them. But by eliminating the non-starters he did mention, the five would be ace Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Hudson, Jake Peavy and Tim Lincecum.

“We haven’t put the order down exactly but we’ve got a pretty good idea of what it’s going to be,” Bochy said.

He said Ryan Vogelsong and Yusmeiro Petit would be long-relievers and spot starters. Vogelsong re-signed with San Francisco, a one-year, $4 million deal, knowing the crowded starter situation he was rejoining.

“We talked a little bit about the situation and he understands it,” Bochy said. “You can’t have enough depth in the rotation. I’m glad that Ryan decided to come back with us and I think it’s going to be a workable situation. They can help each other out, maybe give a guy a start off.”

Lincecum said he has rediscovered the mechanics that once made him among the best in the game.

“My body just started to kind of click and grasp onto the things I used to do naturally,” he said.

He isn’t taking the starting role for granted.

“I feel I have to re-earn my spot in the rotation,” he said. “I didn’t really finish off the year very well last year at all. That kind of left a drive in me. I want to get that back and discover what went wrong.”

Cain seems to be fully recovered from last year’s surgeries on his right elbow and right ankle.

“Matt looks great, feels great,” Bochy said. “I mean, really has got a great look about him. I think he’s excited that he’s healthy again and he’ll be back on the mound. He’s a big part of the staff. We need him. We need Matt to be who he is and stay healthy this year.”

Of the projected starting five, only the 39-year-old Hudson won’t be ready right off this spring.

He is still recovering from surgery to remove bone spurs from his right ankle.

“I’m probably a couple of weeks behind where I normally am,” Hudson said. “I had my surgery on the second of January so I wasn’t able to start throwing until the latter part of January. So just from a throwing standpoint I have a little ways to go before I’m ready to get in some games. My mindset is just to be ready for the real games when the season starts, whether that means me pitching in one game or four games this spring.”

The team lost two starters from last year’s championship squad. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval signed a five-year, $95 million free agent contract with Boston. Mike Morse signed a two-year, $16 million deal with Miami.

But those who are returning are a strong bunch, their manager said.

“With this team, I think it’s fair to say we’re pretty well set,” Bochy said. “…We’re in a good place. We’d like to have a lot of fun in an odd year. We’d like to change that up, so we’ll see if we can do that. I love the fact that we’ve had the continuity here with this staff. We have depth in the rotation. This is a team with a lot of character.”

Sitting in the Scottsdale Stadium dugout, the manager reflected only briefly on last year’s triumph.

“We had a great year last year,” he said. “I hope they took time to enjoy it and savor all of that, but it’s time to go to work.”

At the Phillies camp in Clearwater, Florida, manager Ryne Sandberg said Ryan Howard would be the team’s first baseman, despite the team’s rebuilding efforts and attempts to trade the declining veteran.

Howard is due a minimum of $60 million over the next two years.

“Right now he’s here to prepare for the season as one of the guys,” Sandberg said. “If he gets to where he’s hitting 30-35 home runs, which is good home runs for this day and age of baseball, he can help us win games this year. To see him in the spring and see him prepare and have him get ready, he’s here. Right now, unless he gets unseated he’s the first baseman.”



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