Free agent Tim Lincecum was conspicuous in his absence from Giants FanFest media day Friday, but that didn’t stop his name from coming up.
Vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean said the Giants will have “people in attendance” when Lincecum holds a throwing showcase later this month in Arizona. Lincecum, coming back from hip surgery, is trying to land a job after nine seasons with the Giants.
But Sabean said the odds of re-signing the longtime franchise favorite are slim. Lincecum’s preference is to remain a starter, and the Giants are set right in their rotation after signing free agents Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija and with Chris Heston as a sixth starter.
“I think the mindset is, if we were him, he’ll probably search for a starting position with another organization, or that’s probably his priority,” Sabean said. “As you know, right now we don’t have that. So our interest would be more as a bullpen piece.”
Sabean said the Giants will watch Lincecum “obviously for two reasons – out of respect and a possibility he could come back here.”
Pitching coach Dave Righetti said he will attend Lincecum’s showcase if he’s allowed and he still believes Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young winner who had a 4.13 ERA in 15 starts last season, can help a major-league team.
“I said before, if this guy’s healthy he’s not just another guy,” Righetti said. “Emotionally, he brings a different perspective, people want to know what he’s doing. He’s not just another guy. If he’s right, he’s a force. I don’t think the Giants would not want a guy like that around if he’s in tip-top shape and it feels like it’s going to work.”
Healthy for spring training – Sabean said all players will report to spring training healthy. He said Brandon Belt has one more concussion evaluation before he can be cleared, but otherwise the roster is a full go.
“We’re happy for that,” Sabean said. “We’re happy that the guys that weren’t able to play their usual work load last year are really in a position to do so.”
A quick rundown of those guys:
▪ Second baseman Joe Panik said he’s “100 percent” after missing the second half of 2015 with lower back inflammation. The recurring problem was troubling for a 24-year-old who was on his way to a potential 200-hit season when he started having problems. But Panik said he was able to clear up the problem by taking the time to rest and rehab, and he has been told it won’t be a recurring issue. Panik said he started to feel fully recovered around mid-December and since then “I haven’t had one issue all offseason. Through all the hitting, running, throwing, fielding, leg work, core work, there hasn’t been one morning where I woke up with anything or in the middle of working out.”
▪ Right fielder Hunter Pence said he is feeling “stronger and better than ever” coming back from an oblique injury. He said he has been able to swing since about the end of November and he took his first full-out swing in November not with a bat, but a golf club. He was at a charity golf tournament – the only time he plays golf all year, he said –- and let it rip. “It was good to go,” he said.
▪ Belt and Gregor Blanco both said they feel recovered from concussion symptoms. Blanco said he felt back to 100 percent a few weeks after last season ended.
▪ Matt Cain feels good “physically and mentally” after dealing with elbow issues the past two seasons. Cain said he has “no restrictions” and he still feels frustrated about not performing up to expectations from his sizeable contract the last two years. “It’s not always fun to go through on my side, and it’s not always fun to go through on the other side, people watching,” Cain said. “But that’s kind of just how it goes with some guys. Some guys can jump back really quickly (from injury) like they never missed a beat, and I didn’t do that. It wasn’t a fun spot to go through but that’s part of the game.”
Pagan likely moving to left field – Angel Pagan, who will not be at FanFest this weekend, appears headed for a position change.
According to CSNBayArea.com, manager Bruce Bochy on Friday confirmed newly acquired Denard Span will start in center field and lead off, roles that formerly belonged to Pagan. Pagan likely will shift to left, while his spot in the batting order is yet to be determined. It’s a move that was strongly hinted at but not explicitly stated when the Giants signed Span to a three-year, $31 million contract last month.
Pagan’s defensive efficiency has declined in recent seasons and Span is considered a strong defensive center fielder. The move to left field, where there is less ground to cover, could benefit Pagan, 34, if it helps him stay healty and in the lineup.
Roster set, Sabean says – Sabean said the roster is pretty much set.
“We have some wiggle room (budget-wise), but that’d be more for extra players,” Sabean said. “We may or may not use that money or save it for a rainy day, the (trade) deadline. (GM Bobby Evans) is kind of juggling those ideas right now.
“We do lack some experience on the bench. But we’re pleased overall that we’re much better on paper than how we ended last season, including checking off the health box.”
New year, new looks – Part of the intrigue of FanFest is seeing which players have altered their appearance (always a topic when Lincecum was with the Giants).
There weren’t too many notable changes, but Crawford showed up with his shaggy hair pulled back in a bun, leading one reporter to ask if he plans to wear it like that during games.
“Not under my hat, no,” Crawford said, grinning.
Third baseman Matt Duffy appeared to be growing a goatee but wouldn’t commit to keeping it.
“I have a little red here,” he said, pointing to one patch. “I don’t know what’s going on. We’ll see how long this stays.”
Duffy also gave an update on his cat, Skeeter, who gained Internet notoriety last year for his ample figure. Duffy said Skeeter has lost “maybe two or three pounds” this winter.
“He’s been on a diet for like five years,” Duffy said, “but he just eats right through it.”