San Francisco Giants

Giants reassess after losing out on Lester

Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who has won three World Series championships in the past five years, talks about his team during a news conference at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014, in San Diego.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who has won three World Series championships in the past five years, talks about his team during a news conference at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014, in San Diego. AP

The Giants went all in on Pablo Sandoval immediately after the season, only to see the free-agent third baseman bolt for Boston. They then turned their attention to Jon Lester, the top prize on the free-agent pitching market, until Lester declined their advances before settling on the Chicago Cubs.

As a result, on the third day of the winter meetings Wednesday, manager Bruce Bochy was left to discuss mainly familiar names, starting with several returning members of a rotation to which the Giants still need to add one pitcher before spring.

Four rotation spots are ostensibly spoken for – by Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Hudson and Tim Lincecum. Bochy reiterated Wednesday that Lincecum will begin next season as a starter, saying, “That’s what we signed him for. At times, he was very good last season.”

So, of course, was Bumgarner. His record 522/3 innings in the postseason gave him 270 total for 2014, but Bochy said the Giants won’t necessarily need to be extra cautious with the left-hander in spring training.

“During the course of the season, times I can maybe get him out or get him a little break, get him an extra day, these type of things we’ll talk about,” Bochy said. “But this is a big, strong man that has tremendous discipline in his conditioning.”

Bumgarner said Monday on a conference call he already has started offseason workouts, though he has not begun throwing, and that physically, “everything feels great.”

As for Cain, who is recovering from surgery to remove bone spurs from his right elbow, he is “doing well” and on schedule to start throwing this month, Bochy said. Cain, who also had a procedure on his right ankle in late September, is expected to be on track for spring training.

Despite losing out on Lester, the Giants said the rotation remains a priority. Right-handers Max Scherzer and James Shields are the top free-agent starters left on the market, and while assistant general manager Bobby Evans declined to address specific pitchers, Evans said, “Anybody’s a consideration.”

The Giants also could consider free agents Ervin Santana and Brandon McCarthy. Team officials remained in meetings much of Wednesday afternoon and late into the evening.

Though not linked to the Giants, another name surfacing Wednesday was that of Barry Zito, the left-hander who last pitched in the majors for the Giants in 2013. Zito’s agent, Scott Boras, addressed reporters Wednesday and said Zito has been working out in Houston and hopes to return to the majors in 2015.

Boras said he thinks there would be “widespread” interest in Zito, despite his age (36) and how his tenure ended with the Giants. Zito went 5-11 with a 5.74 ERA in 2013 and ultimately was moved to the bullpen.

Boras told the San Jose Mercury News that Zito has been working in Houston with trainer Ron Wolforth, who helped A’s left-hander Scott Kazmir return to the big leagues, and that Zito has gone through some “new mechanical evolutions.”

Notes – The Giants’ other needs remain third base, replacing Sandoval, and left field, where Evans said they may be in the market for a right-handed hitter to platoon with Gregor Blanco. The Giants are said to have interest in free-agent third baseman Chase Headley, though Bochy said he has not had any contact with Headley.

▪ The Giants did address one need this week. They announced Roberto Kelly will become their third-base coach, replacing Tim Flannery, while former bullpen catcher Billy Hayes will become their first-base coach. Bochy said he will miss Flannery, who opted to step away in late November.

“We’ve been compared to an old married couple,” Bochy said. “But he’s doing great. That’s what’s important to me. He’s happy.”

▪ Catcher Hector Sanchez, who missed much of last season because of concussion issues resulting from foul tips to the face mask, is playing winter ball but not catching. Still, Bochy said Sanchez will have a chance to compete with Andrew Susac for the backup job in spring training.

▪ Bochy said he wasn’t necessarily surprised Sandoval signed with the Red Sox instead of returning to San Francisco.

“Our hope was that he would stay, but you know, these guys have choices,” Bochy said. “We’ll miss him. We’re thankful, grateful for what he did for us. But like I said, now we’ve got to focus forward.”

Call The Bee’s Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. See his baseball coverage at sacbee.com/mlb.

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