Giants gear up for tough task of defending title

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Andres Torres checked out the banner at the main entrance to Scottsdale Stadium blaring “2012 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS” and knew he was back in the right place.

The outgoing outfielder bounced through the clubhouse Tuesday morning, sporting a beanie for the cool desert weather after batting practice and some running. He offered handshakes and hugs as he said hello to all the familiar faces he missed spending one season away with the New York Mets following three in San Francisco.

Now, Torres will play alongside the guy the Giants traded him for last offseason: center fielder Angel Pagan.

San Francisco features a close-knit cast of Latino players, including World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval, the re-signed Pagan, second baseman Marco Scutaro and outfielder Gregor Blanco. And Torres already fits right back in with that group.

“Oh, I’m really happy, so happy to be back,” said Torres, who will play for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. “This is where I feel good. This is home for me. I’m excited to be back with the guys. I know Pagan, Blanco and Scutaro. It’s a great group. I’m ready to go.”

The Giants won another World Series crown last year while Torres was away, though he attended some playoff games at AT&T Park to cheer his former, and now current, club. Reliever Ramon Ramirez, another member of the 2010 title team who went to the Mets in that same swap, also is back after agreeing to a minor league deal with San Francisco last week.

The champion feeling is everywhere at the team’s spring training site. Several dozen fans lined the gate where players walk in for work. Boxes full of fresh T-shirts, pennants and hats were unloaded in the team store. Hitting coach Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens sported a black T-shirt on Tuesday with orange writing that read “Kings Wear Rings” with an image of a sparkly championship ring.

Many of the Giants’ position players already were at the stadium ahead of the first full-squad workout Saturday.

“That’s always a great sign,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “This is as good a place as you can have to work out, with the cages and the workout room, so a lot of them like to come in early and some we wanted to come in early to get a head start. But most of them came in on their own.”

Right fielder Hunter Pence is one of those guys eager to get started.

He begins his first spring with the Giants after being dealt from the Phillies at last summer’s trade deadline.
“It’s a new year, it’s a new league, it’s not the same,” Pence said. “It’s great to have the group that went through what we went through last year. I’m just very grateful, grateful to be a part.”

Key dates

  • Today: First pitchers and catchers workout
  • Saturday: First full-squad workout
  • Feb. 23: First Cactus League game
  • March 28-30: Exhibition games vs. A’s in Bay Area
  • April 1: Season opener at L.A. Dodgers
  • April 5: Home opener vs. St. Louis Cardinals
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By Al Saracevic