Tim Lincecum, Buster Posey

Running down the rosters: San Francisco Giants

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Coming off a disappointing 86-76 finish in 2011, the Giants’ big moves this winter were a pair of underwhelming trades: Jonathan Sanchez for Melky Cabrera and Andres Torres plus Ramon Ramirez for Angel Pagan. To say the least, they didn’t make the kind of splash their fans were hoping for (but have come not to expect).

Rotation
Tim Lincecum – R
Matt Cain – R
Madison Bumgarner – L
Ryan Vogelsong – R
Barry Zito – L

Bullpen
Brian Wilson – R
Sergio Romo – R
Santiago Casilla – R
Jeremy Affeldt – L
Javier Lopez – L
Guillermo Mota – R
Clay Hensley – R

SP next in line:  Eric Surkamp (L), Dan Runzler (L), Brian Burres (L), Ramon Ortiz (R)
RP next in line: Runzler, Danny Otero (R), Steve Edlefsen (R), Jean Machi (R)

The staff remains one of the game’s very best, with three of the NL’s top 10 starting pitchers leading the way. I doubt Vogelsong will come close to matching his All-Star 2011 season, but as a fourth starter, he shouldn’t be a liability.

The bullpen is also exceptional, though Wilson is a bit of a question mark after last year’s elbow problems. Fortunately, the Giants can cover any absence from Wilson. Romo, Casilla, Affeldt and Lopez are probably the game’s best setup crew, and Hensley should do well in replacing Ramirez’s innings.

Rotation depth is a big issue here. Surkamp didn’t appear ready in his six starts last season, and while I like Runzler as a reliever, I’m not sure he has any future in the rotation. Any injury to one of the big three starters — or even to one of the lesser lights — is going to take a heavy toll.

Lineup
CF Angel Pagan – S
2B Freddy Sanchez – R
3B Pablo Sandoval – R
C Buster Posey – R
LF Melky Cabrera – S
1B Aubrey Huff – L
RF Nate Schierholtz – L
SS Brandon Crawford – L

Bench
C Eli Whiteside – R
1B-OF Brandon Belt – L
INF Mike Fontenot – L
INF Ryan Theriot – R
OF Justin Christian – R

Next in line: C Hector Sanchez (S), C Chris Stewart (R), 1B Brett Pill (R), INF Emmanuel Burriss (S), 3B Conor Gillaspie (L), INF Joaquin Arias (R), OF Gregor Blanco (L), OF Gary Brown (R), OF Roger Kieschnick (L), OF Tyler Graham (R)

The Giants needed a star — Jose Reyes, in particular, would have been an outstanding fit — but they settled for a pair of switch-hitting outfielders. For what it’s worth, Cabrera did play like a minor star last year, and he’s just 27 years old. If he can do it again, then the middle of the order has the potential to be very good.

I don’t see either Cabrera or Pagan lighting it up, though, and the Giants might be better off sacrificing some outfield defense in order to get Belt in the lineup regularly. That could mean playing the hot hand between Pagan and Schierholtz.

The bench appears set except for the last spot, which could go to Christian, Pill, Burriss or Blanco. I’m going with Christian, even though he was bumped from the 40-man roster last week. Pill would only make sense if the Giants decided to commit to Huff in the outfield and turn first base over to Belt.

As for the lineup itself, the Giants will likely experiment this spring so that they don’t end up with the three lefties in a row at the bottom of the order (making it a bigger problem is that their two best pinch-hitting options are also left-handers). I think they’d prefer having Melky bat fifth, but using him at the top of the order and sticking either Pagan or Sanchez in the seventh spot would solve the issue.

The Giants finished second in the NL in ERA last year, but dead last in runs scored. A healthy Posey can help there, but there is just so much ground to make up. The Phillies had the worst offense among last year’s NL playoff teams, scoring 713 runs. The Giants were all of the way down at 570. They’ll probably have to up that total to at least 630-640 to have a shot.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.