1. Should the rotation’s spring be a concern?
Giants starters had the Cactus League’s highest ERA (8.29) this spring, and the five in their rotation were among the hardest hit: Madison Bumgarner (11.12), Johnny Cueto (9.58), Jeff Samardzija (7.20), Jake Peavy (7.43) and Matt Cain (12.15). This is the group the Giants committed $220 million to last winter by signing Cueto and Samardzija, hoping it will help lead them back to the postseason. Are those spring numbers a fluke or a sign of troubles to come?
2. Will Cain be a factor?
After missing most of the past two seasons because of injuries, Cain played catch-up again this spring following surgery to remove a cyst from his right arm. But he recovered quickly enough that the Giants expect him to make his first scheduled regular-season start April 8 against the Dodgers. Cain reportedly threw 90 pitches and a variety of off-speed pitches in a final minor-league tune-up Monday, but his fastball was in the 89-91 mph range. If that is indeed Cain’s new normal, his ability to get major-league hitters out – and stay healthy enough to do so over a full season – remains to be seen.
3. How long will the Giants keep 13 pitchers?
The Giants are starting the season with an extra arm in the bullpen, partly because of questions surrounding the rotation and partly because they play 23 games in the first 24 days. After that stretch, they could re-evaluate – especially because their bench of Kelby Tomlinson, Ehire Adrianza, Gregor Blanco and Trevor Brown doesn’t offer much in the way of power. Should they choose to augment the bench later this month, the Giants could choose from a crop of bigger hitters that includes Mac Williamson, Jarrett Parker and, if healthy, Andrew Susac.
4. Is Bochy sold on batting the pitcher eighth?
After watching other teams do it for years, Bochy said this spring he has come around to the idea. It allows Bochy to bat Angel Pagan ninth as essentially a second leadoff hitter ahead of Denard Span and Joe Panik and their high contact and on-base rates. Giants pitchers held their own with the bat last season, leading the majors with nine home runs (five from Bumgarner, the Silver Slugger winner). Will Bochy use this lineup on a daily basis? Or will it start as a game-by-game proposition?
5. Is the Pence factor real?
The Giants went 34-18 in the 52 games Pence was healthy enough to play last season, a .654 winning percentage. They were 50-60 in games Pence did not play. You don’t need those numbers to know the Giants missed their right fielder and emotional leader during a season in which he battled a series of injuries. But Pence is healthy this spring and wrapped up Cactus League play with a .471 average and team-leading six home runs. His return is one reason the Giants believe their lineup is poised for a big season.