San Francisco Giants

Five questions for the San Francisco Giants entering spring training

1. Is Matt Cain back?

Fair or not, if there’s one player whose performance could swing the Giants’ 2015 season, it may be Cain. The erstwhile ace is coming back from elbow surgery after two subpar seasons into a rotation that looks decidedly shaky after Madison Bumgarner. Cain said at FanFest he feels “18 again” and he has regained range of motion in his pitching arm that should allow him to better repeat his mechanics than in the past two seasons, when he was a combined 10-17. Still, the question remains: Can Cain recover his All-Star form? Cain started throwing off a mound at 60-70 percent last week, and he said he hadn’t started thinking about velocity. Will his arm bounce back fully after the surgery? Can he be “The Horse” again?

2. Will Tim Lincecum be in rotation?

Last season ended with Lincecum banished to the bullpen and playing an almost nonexistent role in the playoffs due to his 7.59 ERA in the second half. The Giants have made it clear, though, that Lincecum will go into spring training as a starter and be given a chance to win a rotation spot for 2015. Lincecum has shown the past two seasons that he still can be very effective, but consistency remains maddeningly elusive for the two-time Cy Young Award winner. So it will be interesting to see how the Giants evaluate Lincecum this spring. The right-hander never has posted strong spring training numbers, and no doubt manager Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti will be looking more for signs of command and confidence. But if Lincecum is struggling in late March, how much faith will the Giants show in him?

3. Can Tim Hudson get ready?

Yes, another rotation question. When Hudson could barely walk on his right ankle on a family trip to Disney World this offseason, it led to surgery that will put the 39-year-old right-hander several weeks behind the other pitchers when they arrive in Scottsdale, Ariz. The priority is to get Hudson ready for the first week of April, and he has said it doesn’t take more than a handful of spring outings for him to be ready. But this is the second surgery on the ankle, and he pitched much of last season with discomfort there following the first procedure, which he was still recovering from in spring training last year. Hudson will turn 40 later this year and has said this will probably be his final big-league season. Doubtless he would rather not start it on the disabled list, but Ryan Vogelsong and Yusmeiro Petit provide backup options just in case.

4. Who wins the backup battles?

With the lineup fairly evident, any position battle intrigue figures to be over the utility spots. Bochy has said that Andrew Susac will go into spring as the frontrunner to back up Buster Posey at catcher, but he will have to hold off Hector Sanchez, who is coming back from a concussion. In the infield, Joaquin Arias has been a steady utility option the past two seasons, but rookie Matt Duffy contributed down the stretch and in the playoffs last year, and Ehire Adrianza is a slick-fielding option who could push for a role. Gregor Blanco will be the fourth outfielder, and Juan Perez provides strong defense, but is there a role for National League Championship Series walk-off hero Travis Ishikawa? Injuries could shake things up, but for now only the last few roster spots look to be up for grabs.

5. How is Angel Pagan?

The Giants won the World Series despite losing their leadoff hitter and sparkplug for the stretch run and playoffs when Pagan underwent back surgery in September for a herniated disc. The team’s record the last three seasons when Pagan starts (.575) speaks to his impact in the lineup, but keeping him healthy and on the field has been a challenge. The Giants’ staff, though, has said the center fielder is adamant he’s healthy and ready to return this spring. Bochy said Pagan is still the Giants’ leadoff hitter – but he reserved the right to change his mind if he prefers new acquisition Nori Aoki, with Pagan hitting somewhere in the middle. More importantly, the Giants await their first look at Pagan since last fall – he wasn’t at FanFest – to ensure he is back to his normal self.

Matt Kawahara

GIANTS AT A GLANCE

2014: 88-74, second place in N.L. West

Departures: 3B Pablo Sandoval, LF Michael Morse

Arrivals: 3B Casey McGehee, OF Nori Aoki

Pitchers/catchers report: Wednesday

Full squad reports: Feb. 23

First spring game: March 3 at A’s in Mesa, Ariz., 12:05 p.m.

Spring home: Scottsdale Stadium

More information: sfgiants.com/spring

PROJECTED LINEUP

C: Buster Posey

1B: Brandon Belt

2B: Joe Panik

SS: Brandon Crawford

3B: Casey McGehee

LF: Nori Aoki

CF: Angel Pagan

RF: Hunter Pence

PROJECTED ROTATION

LHP Madison Bumgarner

RHP Matt Cain

RHP Jake Peavy

RHP Tim Lincecum

RHP Tim Hudson

SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

March

Date

Opponent

Time

3

A’s

12:05 p.m.

4

A’s

12:05 p.m.

5

Chicago Cubs

12:05 p.m.

6

Texas

12:05 p.m.

7

San Diego

12:05 p.m.

8

Arizona (ss)

1:05 p.m.

8

Arizona (ss)

1:10 p.m.

9

L.A. Dodgers

1:05 p.m.

10

San Diego

1:05 p.m.

11

Milwaukee

1:05 p.m.

12

Chicago White Sox

1:05 p.m.

13

Texas

1:05 p.m.

14

A’s (ss)

1:05 p.m.

14

Arizona (ss)

7:10 p.m.

15

Arizona

3:05 p.m.

16

Cincinnati

1:05 p.m.

17

Arizona

1:05 p.m.

19

Milwaukee

1:05 p.m.

20

Cincinnati

6:05 p.m.

21

L.A. Angels

1:10 p.m.

22

Kansas City (ss)

1:05 p.m.

22

L.A. Angels (ss)

1:05 p.m.

23

Kansas City

1:05 p.m.

24

Cleveland

7:05 p.m.

25

Colorado

1:10 p.m.

26

A’s

7:05 p.m.

27

L.A. Dodgers

7:05 p.m.

28

Giants Futures (ss)

1:05 p.m.

28

Seattle

1:05 p.m.

29

L.A. Dodgers

1:05 p.m.

30

Chicago Cubs

1:05 p.m.

31

Colorado

1:05 p.m.

April

Date

Opponent

Time

1

Cleveland

1:05 p.m.

2

vs. A’s

7:15 p.m.

3

vs. A’s

7:15 p.m.

4

at A’s

1:05 p.m.

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