1. Can Matt Cain beMatt Cain again?
After reporting some soreness early this spring in his right elbow, from which he had bone chips removed last season, Cain said after his last Cactus League start that “everything feels good.” Now it’s a matter of results. Cain is expected to open as the No. 3 starter in a rotation with its share of question marks, chief among them whether the restored range of motion in Cain’s elbow can help restore him to his All-Star form of seasons past. Cain has admittedly “underperformed” the past two seasons – 10-17 with a 4.09 ERA – and with Tim Hudson coming back from ankle surgery, Jake Peavy battling “dead arm” and Tim Lincecum an enigma, the Giants likely need a vintage showing from their erstwhile ace.
2. Is this the yearfor Brandon Belt?
It seems this question has dogged Belt for most of his big-league career, but after a broken finger and concussion limited him to 61 games last season, it’s still there. Belt has the potential to be a legitimate power threat in a lineup that doesn’t have many of them. He’s expanded his approach to include hitting to all fields and even showed a willingness last October to drop a bunt if teams shift on him, as they often did last year. But can it all add up to a breakthrough season for the 26-year-old?
3. Can Angel Paganstay healthy?
The center fielder has played just 167 games over the past two seasons because of a variety of ailments, most recently back troubles that required surgery for a bulging disc last September. Pagan has said he wants to play 160 games this season, but he missed some time because of lower back pain this spring and any recurrence during the season will draw attention given Pagan’s history. Still, his presence is key – the Giants are 96-70 when he starts the past two seasons, 68-90 when he doesn’t.
4. Will this be swan songfor Tim Lincecum?
Lincecum had a 4.74 ERA in 2014 and pitched his way out of the starting rotation. This offseason, he went back to his roots mechanically – with the assistance of his father, Chris, who helped develop his signature motion – and he finished a rocky spring training with an encouraging outing against the Rockies on Tuesday. He’ll begin the season as the No. 5 starter. It’s the last year of a two-year contract and his future with the team could depend a lot on whether he can find the consistency that he’s been chasing the past three seasons.
5. Can Madison Bumgarner contend for a Cy Young?
The Giants have bigger issues, and this likely is nowhere near the front of Bumgarner’s mind, either. But the big left-hander’s historic 2014 postseason puts him among the elite pitchers in the game, and at 25 it’s possible he’s approaching his best years. Bumgarner won a career-high 18 games with a 2.98 ERA last year. But he would have to unseat Clayton Kershaw, who has won the National League Cy Young three of the past four years.