Programming note: Get up to date on all the latest offseason Giants news on the Hot Stove Show, Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
ORLANDO – Buster Posey set career highs last season with 121 starts at catcher and 1,031 innings behind the plate. And he acknowledged he didn’t always feel so chipper in the second half as his offensive production tailed off.
So Posey began a focused offseason workout regimen to build more strength in his lower half. And Giants manager Bruce Bochy is excited about the advantages it might bring.
“Buster wants to catch more,” Bochy said Monday from the Giants’ suite at the Winter Meetings. “I talked to Buster last week and he’s really concentrating on this.”
Bochy quickly added that he wouldn’t boost Posey’s time by too much. But being able to start a few more games at catcher would mean fewer starts at first base – and fewer forced days off for Brandon Belt.
Bochy said Belt, who finished 14th in the NL in OPS, has deserved the right to be looked at as an everyday, 150-start kind of player. Belt’s offensive production also makes it less dire to take Posey’s bat out of the lineup. And by Bochy’s admission, playing first base isn’t much of a rest for your starting catcher.
“Now, I still could do it against Clayton Kershaw, day game after a night game,” Bochy said.
But for the most part, he expects Belt to be his first baseman.
Giants head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner will take a break from the Winter Meetings on Tuesday to visit Marco Scutaro in Miami. By all reports, Scutaro has recovered well from surgery to insert a temporary pin in his pinky finger.
Tim Hudson, who had major ankle surgery in July, should start throwing off flat ground this week and begin running in January. Strength coach Carl Kochan made trips to see Belt and Madison Bumgarner to make sure they were keeping up on their conditioning plans. Last week, Groeschner also spoke to an enthusiastic Tim Lincecum, who is working out five days a week and excited about his progress.
You can’t have an offseason conditioning update without Pablo Sandoval, who has slimmed down below 250 pounds in Venezuela, according to Sabean.
“It sounds like it is going well,” said Groeschner, who communicates with Sandoval most often through email. “He seems motivated. He keeps telling us he is and it’s his time to do it.”
Finally, there is Jeremy Affeldt, who had groin surgery toward the end of the season before returning home to Spokane, Wash. He is close to 100 percent recovered, said Groeschner, and should play catch this week.
“The fortunate thing,” said Sabean, “is I think it’s already too cold up there to barbecue.”
The Giants made a play for several right-handed relievers that already signed elsewhere, Sabean said. The GM was uneasy committing more money to the bullpen because he wants to be able to push some chips to the middle should he find a solution in left field that requires modest payroll expansion.
Right-hander Chris Perez is meeting with clubs here in Orlando, though, and the Giants have shown interest in the former Indians closer in the past.
The Giants aren’t showing much if any interest in bringing back right-hander Chad Gaudin, who pitched well in long relief and then served as an ample rotation replacement for a time before multiple injuries overwhelmed him.
Gaudin pitched with a broken toe even before the finger numbness that ended his season.
No surprise here, but Sabean said he is assuming right now that right-hander Yusmeiro Petit will be on the Opening-Day roster as a long man. As a group, they rated right-hander Jean Machi favorable as well.
Sabean didn’t mention right-hander George Kontos, who was a huge part of the World Series winner in 2012 but clearly has to reestablish his place in the pecking order.
And there’s right-hander Derek Law, who was “lighting it up in the (Arizona Fall League), so … you never know,” Sabean said.
Law is expected to get a big league camp invite. Kyle Crick will be invited to big league camp as well, although he will not be a candidate to make the team.
Just an idea, nothing more: Would right-hander Tommy Hanson, recently let go by the Angels after a terrible season, be worth a look as a reclamation project? He lost a lot of velocity last year, but perhaps it might play up in a relief role – if he’s willing to try it out.
Why did the Giants designate outfielder Francisco Peguero, who quickly signed with the Baltimore Orioles?
It was a curious move for two reasons: 1) The Giants need a right-handed hitting outfielder who isn’t a stiff out there, and Peguero meets the minimum standards. 2) They have an apparent surplus of infielders still on the 40-man roster, including Tony Abreu, Nick Noonan and Ehire Adrianza.
Abreu and Adrianza will be out of options this spring. So the Giants won’t be able to keep them all.
But Sabean pointed out that Peguero also would’ve been out of options, and Juan Perez had bypassed him with his strong outfield play. Sometimes when a player so excels in one area, it gives him the confidence to pick up his game in other areas. The Giants believe that’s what could happen with Perez as he learns to compete against big league pitching.
As for Peguero, he has tremendous bat speed and a solid blend of tools. So it’s no surprise he caught on quickly. But Sabean determined that Peguero didn’t have much of a chance to make the club, and in going over options with manager Bruce Bochy, there were scenarios in which Abreu, Adrianza and Noonan still could be factors.
So that’s why, when they needed to clear a space, Peguero was the selection.
There was a time the Giants would trip over themselves to get Ichiro Suzuki. But now he's 40. And that time has passed, I'm told.