Pre-Opening Day Jitters
There’s much to be done and much to be reported in the one day before tomorrow’s opening game against the hated Dodgers. Brian Wilson will start the season on the DL, meaning there’s to be a scramble for a replacement closer within the bullpen (Sergio Romo is the obvious frontrunner, although a closer-by-committee is also a possibility). Brandon Belt is still getting regular exhibition at-bats, and with the injury to Cody Ross, there’s a strong chance he starts the year as the Opening Day first-baseman. The injury to Ross (minor calf strain) leaves the door wide open for Belt, but also leaves a hole in the lineup as well as requiring the Giants to defensively downgrade in right field. On the upside, Belt starting would mean Aaron Rowand sits, so every cloud has its silver lining.
Brandon Belt has been the biggest story of the Spring so far in Giants land, and rightly so. In my few days down in Scottsdale, I was incredibly impressed with the kid’s approach both in batting practice and in games. I haven’t seen a prospect so disciplined to the opposite field with power since some shmuck named Buster Posey came into the league. Management has been decidedly hush-hush about the whole ordeal, giving off a “will they/won’t they” aire that has hovered over fans since Day 1 of camp. Most sources say an announcement is due late this afternoon, and I’d say the smart money has Belt starting the season in the Majors (check the official Croix De Candlestick Twitter for updates on this today).
The next item on the agenda is Brian Wilson and his strained oblique. While it’s tragic to lose the bearded wonder for any amount of time, the depth of the Giants’ bullpen gives us a parachute of sorts. Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, and even Marc Kroon can all close out games, so don’t sound the alarm just yet. Wilson will be back soon enough, so think of this as a temporary hiccup. Because his DL time can be backdated by a significant amount, there’s a chance he could be eligible to come off on April 5th, leaving the Giants hamstrung for only a few days.
Past these two issues, everything looks good to go. After a nightmarish turn through the rotation that saw Giants starters from Tim Lincecum to Madison Bumgarner get rocked on a daily basis, let me assure you this is no reason to panic. This early in the year, arms are still not at 100%, and Spring Training hiccups are a regularity. Pitchers don’t attack hitters the same way they would in the regular season, as oftentimes they’re trying out new pitches, different approaches, and are on a strict limit in terms of how much they’re allowed to throw. Once the gun goes off tomorrow, all of that goes out the window.
In other news, tomorrow’s Opening Day. Tim Lincecum starts, the Giants play the Dodgers, and the games count. From now until October (and part of November), baseball fans everywhere will be incommunicado between the hours of 7pm and 10pm on weekdays, and 1pm and 4pm on weekends. In short, the world will begin to make sense again. Keeping with tradition, I’ll end my pre-Opening Day post with a memorable quote, this one from Fever Pitch.
They’re here. Every April, they’re here. At 1:05 or at 7:05, there is a game. And if it gets rained out, guess what? They make it up to you. Does anyone else in your life do that? The (insert team here) don’t get divorced [unless it's the Dodgers]. This is a real family. This is the family that’s here for you.
Let’s play ball.
NOTE: To all Giants fans in Seattle, feel free to drop by Auto Battery in Capitol Hill to watch the game on ESPN at 5pm.