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Giants camp report: Will success spoil champs?


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants don't want to change anything.

Can you blame them?

They look basically the same (minus a few pounds around Pablo Sandoval's midsection). They sound basically the same (including a few off-the-wall quips from Brian Wilson).

And, manager Bruce Bochy insists, they can get ready basically the same way they always have.

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This is always the question for defending champions, or at least it has been the question for the last decade or so, ever since that three-year run in the late 1990s when the Yankees made repeating look so easy.

Long season, short winter -- how are you going to deal with it?

Heavy workload, lots of celebrating -- how are you going to overcome it?

We know it's not easy, because we've seen team after team fail, in one way or another. Not one of the past 10 teams that won the World Series won it again the next year, and four of the past eight didn't even make the playoffs.

We don't know how much of that is due to the long season, short winter problem, but there is evidence that it exists. Cole Hamels said that after his great postseason run with the 2008 Phillies, he came to spring training a few months later feeling that the winter shouldn't be ending yet.

"I didn't want to start the year," Hamels said last September.

That same spring, the Rays held their pitchers back. Then they struggled in April, never fully recovered, and missed the playoffs.

The Giants' pitchers don't yet show any evidence of the Hamels effect. They plan to avoid the Rays effect by making this spring as normal as possible.

They know in some ways it will be different. They don't mind the extra attention, and the championship banner hanging in the clubhouse tells you they don't totally want to turn the page just yet.

If you want to ask about last year, go right ahead.

Fantasy Writer

Sleeper ... Miguel Tejada: Many owners will likely dismiss Tejeda as an aging player in decline. But Tejada's home run and contact rates held up last year, so there's reason to think that we will see fewer flyouts and more hits from him in 2011. He is still very much a reliable option in mixed leagues, especially at the thin position of shortstop.

Bust ... Jonathan Sanchez: Sanchez has increased his effectiveness by inducing more pop-ups and stranding more baserunners, and by last season, he was among the major league leaders in both categories. The magnitude of the improvement suggests that luck has played a role, too. At best, Sanchez's progress will hit a wall, and even more likely, his numbers will move in the wrong direction.

Can't-miss prospect ... Brandon Belt: Belt clobbered 24 homers, 15 triples and 51 doubles across four levels in his first minor league season last year. The question is when, and not if, he will be promoted to the majors this season. While Belt doesn't have a full-time big league job right now, he will almost certainly have one soon this season, and you will be glad to have him rostered in all formats when he does get the call.

-- Al Melchior
Giants outlook | Depth Chart | 2011 Draft Prep

"Keep reminding me," Wilson said. "I like it."

The Giants are handling the attention well. The bigger question is how they'll handle the physical demands.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia remembers spring training 2003, after his team's surprise World Series win.

"Guys were still banged up," Scioscia said this week. "Not mentally, but physically."

The 2002 Angels won their World Series in October. The 2010 Giants played one day into November.

The 2003 Angels finished under .500. The 2011 Giants don't plan to.

"I don't see any reason why we can't [win the World Series] again," Tim Lincecum said.

Lincecum said he actually worked harder than usual in the winter, motivated by the memory of his poor August last year. He shrugged off any suggestion that the long season and short winter will leave him short on gas at some point this summer, and said convincingly that he had none of the start-of-spring reservations that Hamels talked about.

The Giants had Lincecum throw a regular start-of-spring bullpen session Tuesday, on their first official day of workouts. They began spring training on the second day that teams were allowed to start, and Bochy said the schedule won't be different from previous years.

"Our philosophy is we've got to get ready for this season," he said. "We've got to get ready for opening day. The time schedule is the same as any other year.

"Guys do this. It's part of the game. We're not going to do anything different."

Yes, guys do this, and the Yankees won three straight World Series while playing three rounds of playoffs and keeping their rotation more or less intact.

The Giants have kept their rotation totally intact. It's a rotation they relied on heavily last year, and not only in terms of innings (counting regular season and postseason, the five starters averaged 224 innings, and each of the five threw at least 199).

The Giants had the best team ERA in baseball, but they were ninth in the National League in runs scored. Bochy believes they have a chance to be a little better offensively in 2011, with Buster Posey, Freddy Sanchez, Cody Ross and Pat Burrell around from the start this time, but he won't argue that this is still a team that wins with pitching.

"I do think we're going to have to pitch," he said. "I don't know if we have to do as well, but close."

They know the season won't go exactly the same way, but they want things to change as little as possible. And there are things that they're sure won't change.

"This clubhouse has not changed since I've been here," Wilson said.

The Giants did change last year. The results changed.

They won. And now they want to win again.

Can you blame them?


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