SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — MLB lineups are changing at a rapid pace with free-agent signings and trades. Among the teams that have not dramatically changed their makeup: the defending NL West champion San Francisco Giants.
“One of the things that helped us win a couple World Series earlier in my career (2012 and 2014) was keeping the same guys around,’’ veteran shortstop Brandon Crawford said Tuesday. “I feel like we kind of knew what success looked like and we can build off that success from last year, with most of the group back, at least from the lineup standpoint.’’
Crawford, 35, is coming off his fourth Gold Glove and third All-Star season, posting an .893 OPS, and .298 batting average, including 24 home runs as the Giants went 107-55 to end the Dodgers’ eight-year consecutive run of NL West Division titles.
“The more you play with guys, the more comfortable you’re going to be, whether it’s ground balls or shallow pop ups, you have a pretty good idea of where they are going to be,‘’ Crawford said.
Third baseman Evan Longoria said it’s unusual to see how few people are new at spring training, which he said “can go a long way.”
“You’re not feeling like you have to learn a ton of new people … you’re not having to build camaraderie. Camaraderie is a huge part, I think, of a winning team,” Longoria said. “We had great relationships last year, everybody really meshed together, and I think that’s why we were able to be so good.’’
That familiarity and camaraderie extends to third-year manager Gabe Kapler, who replaced longtime skipper Bruce Bochy.
“We are getting more and more comfortable with Kap and that leads to even more communication,’’ Crawford said.
Of the position-player group, Kapler said: “They have a really good understanding of how we run our offense and how we use our bench, and how we try to get guys off their feet. That familiarity is a feather in our cap and something we can lean on going into the season.’’
Off the field, the group is tight, too. Several players live in the Scottsdale area in the offseason.
“We spend birthdays together,’’ Longoria said.
When the 99-day lockout prohibited access to the Giants’ facilities, Crawford and Longoria ramped up their hitting in Longoria’s backyard cage.
“I’ve felt good the last few days … with where my swing is,’’ Crawford said. “I had a pretty good foundation to go back to. I think we simplified things so much the past few years, it was easy to go back to.’’
When asked if Crawford is set for another season well above his career averages of .727 OPS and .254 batting average, Kapler said, “with Craw and the rest of our players, we really want to focus on the things we want to control, things like, how we practice, how we plan and prepare for the moments that are difficult in the season. And having a plan in place for when times get tough.
“We really trust that those things will lead to good statistical outcomes and good win/loss outcomes, and good chasing postseason outcomes. ‘’
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