SAN FRANCISCO — Bruce Bochy smiled and nodded when asked if he has thought much about the lineup he’ll have on the field for the April 6 opener in Phoenix.
“It’s going to be a fun lineup to noodle,” he said, dropping one of his favorite phrases. “We have a lot of options.”
For a manager known as a master tactician, the current roster holds plenty of appeal. Yes, the Giants lost Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse and failed to add a power threat, but Bochy believes he has a deep lineup and one that can undergo massive changes depending on the matchup. Angel Pagan is scheduled to hit leadoff, but Bochy hasn’t ruled out putting new left fielder Nori Aoki atop the lineup at some point and moving Pagan down to the No. 3 spot. Brandon Belt could hit third in a normal alignment, but also could hit fifth behind Buster Posey and Hunter Pence if the opposing pitcher is a tough left-hander.
Bochy views new third baseman Casey McGehee as the No. 6 hitter, but could move him up a spot for certain opposing pitchers.
“I’ve thought a lot about this lineup,” Bochy said. “It’s going to be a really fun lineup to mix up. It’s a lineup that’s very easy to shake up.”
There’s one change that Bochy doesn’t anticipate making. He’s seen enough of Joe Panik to be sold on the young second baseman as a permanent fixture in the No. 2 spot, regardless of how other pieces are moved around. Panik hit .305 as a rookie and several teammates identified him Friday as a player who can make sure the new-look lineup doesn’t skip a beat. General manager Brian Sabean mentioned Panik, touted shortstop Brandon Crawford’s ability to jump to “an All-Star level,” and said he expects Belt to fill some of the power void.
“We know it’s there. We’ve seen it,” he said. “We hope this is the year (Belt) breaks out because we’re missing Sandoval’s power and Morse’s power.”
The Giants know they won’t hit as many homers this season, but the staff feels the lineup fits AT&T Park well and will wear down opposing pitchers. To live up to that potential, the Giants will need a healthy Pagan, and all recent signs have been positive.
Pagan, who had back surgery last season, will not attend FanFest this weekend, but he spoke to Bochy recently.
“Angel is fine,” the manager said. “He’s ready to go. He’s having no issues with his lower back.”
When Pagan returns, he’ll find the Giants flying on planes that should be easier on his back. The organization traditionally has chartered jets from United or Delta, but the Giants have signed with a new private air carrier that fills planes with 90 first class seats. The change was made largely to make travel easier for players who fly 55,000-60,000 miles most seasons. The team has studied the issue for years and found that some teams in the Central divisions fly closer to 20,000 miles per season.
“Any advantage you can gain or any possible roadblock you can eliminate, that’s what you’re trying to do,” general manager Brian Sabean said. “If you start with (Madison) Bumgarner, at his size, even having a whole row (on a chartered jet) doesn’t do anything. He’s like a pretzel.”