SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Like just about everyone involved with the Giants' run to a second World Series title in three years, Marco Scutaro is still adjusting to an offseason that didn't start until November.
But Scutaro, 37, wouldn't have it any other way. A few weeks of missed rest is a small price to pay when the reward is a championship, and after a journey that included eight seasons as a professional before he became a full-time starter in the big leagues, Scutaro is hoping for another long season.
After unpacking and making a trip around the clubhouse at Scottsdale Stadium, Scutaro made a point of mentioning the career of former Giant and fellow Venezuelan infielder Omar Vizquel, who played 24 seasons but reached the World Series just twice, losing both times.
"People sometimes don't understand how hard it is to get back to the World Series," Scutaro said. "It's something I appreciated."
Management is hopeful that appreciation permeates the clubhouse. In the offseason, Scutaro was given a three-year deal to continue playing second base and being a clubhouse leader, a role he embraced after coming over from Colorado at last season's trade deadline.
Scutaro was one of the last position players to arrive in camp, but he was a popular subject. As teammates took turns meeting with the media, the same question was asked over and over again: Was it a smart decision for the Giants to stand pat as the rest of the National League contenders made changes? To a man from Buster Posey to Ryan Vogelsong and everyone in between the Giants made note that this time around, they'll have a full season of Scutaro's immense presence on the field and, perhaps more important, in the clubhouse.
Scutaro is a rare combination, a Latino who has been in the United States so long that he is equally comfortable with the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking members of the clubhouse. He serves as a bridge at times, having seen it all with six big-league franchises and countless stints in the Venezuelan winter league.
"He's an easy guy to get along with," shortstop Brandon Crawford said. "And he gets along with everybody. You see how helpful he can be for the younger guys."
The 26-year-old Crawford is one of them, and part of a locked-in infield that includes Brandon Belt (24), Posey (25) and Pablo Sandoval (26).
"Scutaro brings leadership to a group that isn't very old for the most part," Crawford said. "He just has this businesslike approach that's a good example for the rest of us to follow."
Scutaro also helped the Giants bridge the gap on the field, hitting .362 after being acquired and leading a team that could have crumbled after Melky Cabrera's suspension. He was even better in the postseason, batting .500 and taking MVP honors in the National League Championship Series as the Giants vanquished the St. Louis Cardinals, a team Scutaro said was San Francisco's stiffest competition.
He viewed highlights during the offseason, saying the comeback in Cincinnati still makes you "sit back and go, 'Wow!' " But Scutaro hasn't had a chance to fully watch his iconic moment, a joyful tribute to the driving rain in Game 7 of the NLCS that looked like a scene straight out of "The Shawshank Redemption."
"I never saw rain like that in four years in Oakland," Scutaro said, shaking his head. "We're a strike away from the World Series and it was like, 'Oh, my God, what is this? It's a message.' I was impressed."
The Giants were impressed enough by Scutaro to make him an offseason priority despite his advanced age. After making about $22 million through the 2012 season, Scutaro will make $20 million over the course of a contract that will take him to his 40th birthday.
Scutaro already topped Vizquel in the ring department. Will he match his countryman's longevity, too?
"After three years," he said, "we'll talk."
Notes The Giants intend to put Sandoval through another round of extra conditioning this spring. Sandoval won't fight it, but the third baseman insisted he is in baseball shape.
"Who cares what other people say?" Sandoval said. "I'm here to do my job. I'll keep doing my job."
"If he's not in baseball shape, who is?" Scutaro said. "He just finished playing like a week ago. He's good. He's fine."
The Giants are light on bats off the bench and power in left field. Brett Pill is hoping he can provide a little bit of both. Pill, 28, has had short runs in the big leagues the past two seasons, hitting .239 with six homers and six doubles in 155 at-bats. The majority of that time has come at first base, but Pill has made starts in left field in the majors and minors.
With Belt and the occasional Posey cameo blocking Pill at first, he spent plenty of time with his outfield glove this offseason. "I'm never going to be Gregor Blanco, but I feel good out in left," he said.
With Andres Torres and Angel Pagan headed to the World Baseball Classic later this spring, manager Bruce Bochy said Pill is among the players who can expect to see increased time in left field.