By Michelle Dingley

Spring training is in full swing and the new season is almost upon us.  For those of you who haven’t been paying attention in the offseason, the Giants have made some changes.  Some old favorites are gone, and there are a few new faces to meet.  Here are some highlights of the offseason moves:

Jonathan Sanchez has been traded.  The inconsistent starter is now Kansas City’s problem.  Of course, I wanted to trade him after the 2010 season when his value was high, not after a weak year that included time on the disabled list.  His trade allowed room for Vogelsong to take his rightful spot in the rotation (as long as he stays healthy), and Zito, of course, will bring up the rear as fifth starter. 

Cody Ross “The Boss” is now playing for Boston.  The Giants let him go after an underwhelming year.  After playing postseason hero in both the NLDS and NLCS in 2010 (earning MVP honors for the latter), he never put it together for an extended period in 2011.  I was looking forward to seeing how he recovered this year, but at least now I don’t need to worry about those bats flying into the stands on a swinging strike three.

Pat Burrell has retired.  His persistent medical issues forced him to quit.  It’ll be sad not to see him in the dugout, even after barely seeing him on the field last season.  Last I heard, he might be sticking around with the organization in some coaching capacity.

Mark DeRosa is now on the Nationals.  Marred by injuries during much of his tenure with the Orange and Black, the veteran third baseman proved he has some baseball left in him, ending of the season with a 12-for-31 (.387) September.

Andres Torres is now with the Mets.  The journeyman outfielder, whose speed, bat and personality made all the difference in 2010, underperformed in 2011 (I feel a pattern emerging here).  Fearing he may have peaked, the Giants let him go.

Ramon Ramirez is also now a Met.  The righty reliever is perhaps best known for his role in the Giants-Phillies brawl last year.  He is the only member of the bullpen to leave, and just the second pitcher (with Sanchez) we lost in the offseason.  Our pitching is our strength, so why mess with a good thing?

Carlos Beltran, not surprisingly, did not re-sign with the Giants.  The slugging outfielder signed with the Cardinals, going from one team of defending champs to another. 

Jeff Keppinger is now with Tampa Bay.  He filled in admirably at second after Freddy Sanchez went down.  With Freddy looking like he will be back this season and plenty of infield backups available, the Giants didn’t keep Keppinger.

Among those joining the team is Melky Cabrera, coming over in the Jonathan Sanchez trade.  The outfielder is expected to play left.  The 27-year-old hit .305 last year after a .255 2010 with the Braves.  He is currently batting .433 with .867 slugging in the Cactus League. 

The other big acquisition for the Giants is Angel Pagan.  The expected leadoff batter and center fielder was picked up from the Mets for Sanchez and Torres.  The 30-year-old is said to be swift, stealing 30+ bases in each of the past two seasons, and appears to be Torres-esque. 

The surprise of the spring so far is Gregor Blanco.  The 28-year-old signed a minor league contract with the Giants in the offseason.  The outfielder has been turning heads, currently batting .500 (13-for-26), and will force Bruce Bochy and company to make some hard decisions with the roster. 

Ryan Theriot is another new Giant.  The 32-year-old former Cardinal will provide infield depth, able to play both second and shortstop.  If Freddy is not ready for Opening Day, Theriot has a shot there, or the righty can tag-team with the lefty Brandon Crawford at short.  He will compete with Fontenot (and potentially Emmanuel Burriss) for playing time. 

If something goes wrong with our rotation, Brian Burres will be near the front of the line to fill in.  Originally drafted by the Giants in 2000, he most recently spent time with the Pirates.  Burres pitched only 14 innings in the bigs last season, but had a 1.14 WHIP and opponents hit .226.  So far in the Cactus League, he has a 1.40 WHIP and .286 opponents’ average in 5 innings.  The numbers don’t sound great, but this is spring training, and Righetti seems to have faith in him.  The pitching coach announced Burres will start Saturday’s night game. 

Former Marlin Clay Hensley appears to be taking Ramirez’s spot in the pen.  The righty reliever has only pitched 3 innings this spring, but his WHIP is a paltry 1.00 with opponents batting .182. 

The Opening Day roster is far from locked up, but it appears the team will be younger and faster than last year.  We will probably run more and create more scoring opportunities.  Depending partially on how Buster and Freddy perform, we should be much better offensively as well.  (We couldn’t be much worse, right?)  On top of that, our pitching staff is mostly intact, so we will be a force to be reckoned with.  NL West, look out.  The Giants are coming back.


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