Giants manager Bruce Bochy made the biggest news at FanFest on Saturday, naming left-hander Madison Bumgarner as his Opening Day starter.
The announcement did not come as a surprise. Bumgarner has started the last two season openers for the Giants and is coming off a season in which he went 18-9 with a 2.93 ERA and made his third All-Star team.
How the Giants’ rotation will line up behind Bumgarner remains to be set. Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, both signed to multi-year deals over the offseason, are expected to command the next two spots, followed by Jake Peavy and Matt Cain in some order.
Bochy made the announcement in response to a fan’s question on the Q&A stage that is typically one of the highlights of the FanFest event. Later on the same stage, Giants VP of Baseball Operations Brian Sabean also confirmed that Santiago Casilla goes into spring as the Giants’ closer, a role Casilla has claimed for most of the past two seasons. The Giants’ bullpen will look a little different this spring after the departures of Jeremy Affeldt and Yusmeiro Petit in retirement and free agency, respectively.
Never miss a local story.
“I think he’s one of our unsung heroes over time,” Sabean said of Casilla.
Most of the Q&A material was less serious. A few of the highlights:
▪ Right fielder Hunter Pence was asked several times about his offseason engagement to Alexis Cozombolidis. “She has a YouTube channel where all she does is make fun of me,” Pence said. “And I was like, ‘This is the one.’ ”
Pence popped the question at Disney World with fireworks in the background. The video of his proposal went viral on the Internet. Teammates Javier Lopez and Brandon Belt both said they’d watched.
“My favorite is the fact that he didn’t even get the question in,” Lopez said. “Thankfully she came in, gave him a big old smooch and said ‘yes’ for him.”
“For me it went on a little too long,” Belt said. “After about five minutes I shut it down.”
▪ Lopez on how he spent his offseason: “I was caddying for Ryan Vogelsong,” the former Giants teammate who signed this offseason with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
▪ Belt was asked about his previous confession that 18-month-old son Grayson has eaten dog food. “He’s definitely graduated,” Belt said. “He licks windows now.”
▪ Pence was asked who his favorite player was growing up. “Probably Javy,” he said of the 38-year-old Lopez. “I was recording him on my VHS.”
▪ Lopez on what he’ll miss about Affeldt: “I’m going to miss him walking around shirtless. He has the body of a Greek god. Is the Michelin man a god?
▪ Even though Affeldt retired last season, he remained the butt of few jokes Saturday. Shortstop Brandon Crawford and Bochy were asked what they recalled about Game 7 of the 2014 World Series in Kansas City. Crawford told Bochy: “I was a little nervous when you brought in Affeldt.” Bochy’s answer: “Not as nervous as I was.”
▪ Bochy’s best one-liner of the day: “If I was going to the electric chair, I’d probably get cabbage rolls: They take a long time to make.”
That came in response to a question about favorite meals of all time. Crawford answered with macaroni and cheese. Joe Panik said chicken parmesan. Chris Heston was asked for his favorite San Francisco restaurant and what entrée he likes.
“House of Prime Rib,” Heston said. “And there’s only one thing you can get there.”
▪ Bochy when asked where he sees the Giants in five to 10 years: “I see Brandon (Crawford) weighing about 260. He’ll be at first base.” Crawford claimed he hadn’t gained a pound since joining the Giants in 2011. Panik’s response: “I’m taking the over.”
▪ Crawford when asked about visiting Panik in New York City this offseason and what his favorite part of the trip was: “I was out there to get a Gold Glove. So that was pretty cool.”
▪ Bochy on getting over close, frustrating losses: “I live across the street (from AT&T Park). Sometimes I try to get hit by the Muni so I feel better.”
▪ Matt Duffy, who recently posted a picture on social media of himself in the weight room, was asked how seriously he’d hit the weights this offseason. “A little bit,” the skinny third baseman said. “I’m still not ... big.”
▪ Buster Posey on working with new starting pitchers Samardzija and Cueto: “I think the main thing is getting to know them – try to understand Johnny Cueto, first and foremost.”
▪ New center fielder Denard Span told a good story when asked why he is reportedly afraid of birds. Span said he was at spring training with the Nationals in Florida one year when a bird that had caught a fish nearby was flying overhead and dropped the fish about 10 feet from him. For the next half-hour or so, Span said, the bird circled above him.
“The fact that he’s literally 10 feet above my head, circling me – that was just a frightening moment,” Span said.
Span clarified that, “Mentally I’m OK with birds.” That’s fortunate, given how often the seagulls descend on the outfield during night games at AT&T Park.
▪ Sabean was asked about missing out on free agent starter Zack Greinke this offseason. He said the Giants “were in kind of a prolonged negotiation” with Greinke before the right-hander ended up signing with the Diamondbacks. “We were able to get two pitchers for the price of one,” Sabean said. “And maybe that’s better for us.”
▪ Sabean on Barry Bonds becoming the Marlins’ hitting coach: “Barry’s future in the game is yet to be determined. This is his first foray into the coaching side and we wish him the best.”
▪ Sabean on his choice of wardrobe: “I love black. Mostly because of my figure, to hide my waistline.”
▪ And finally, the hardest-hitting question of the day was directed at Bochy, by an out-of-place audience member.
“As a Red Sox fan,” he asked, “will you please take back Pablo (Sandoval)?”
The moderator stepped in before Bochy could – or had to – answer.