By Ben Leonard
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. —
Even before they played their first game in 2016, the revamped even-year San Francisco Giants picked up their first win. Over a football team. On a golf course.
The Giants team, headed by Matt Cain and Bruce Bochy, took down Steve Young, Dwight Clark and Co. in Chevron Shoot-Out at Pebble Beach, avenging their gut-wrenching loss last year.
Per BASTA correspondent Joe Lami, Bochy thought the rivalry had reached Dodgers-Giants territory: “It’s getting pretty big. We got humbled last year with them taking it, but unfortunately I think I’m the weak link in the group. I’ll try to carry my weight.”
It was hard for Bochy to compete with Cain, a near scratch golfer whose sweet stroke makes us question why he ever tried to hit a baseball. “I’ll try not to follow Matty on the tee. He just reminds me how old I’m getting,” Bochy said Tuesday. Although he thought he did a “little better” than he did last year, he joked that on the practice range, his caddy told him he was “uncoachable.” For those who want to see Bochy play in the conventional Pebble Beach pro-am, you’re out of luck — he said he won’t play in it in the near future.
Overall, Bochy certainly enjoyed his time at one of the finest golf courses in the world. “I wish my game was a little bit better, but other than that, it’s hard to beat this. You can’t beat the weather these past few days. It’s great to mingle with the fans, see Matt Cain, George Kontos, and Randy Winn. Got a great caddy that’s getting me straightened out.”
Part of why Bochy played better this year might have been his fitness — he looked noticeably slimmer this spring after a health scare last February. The Giants’ skipper had stents put in in a procedure in 2015, but thankfully has been healthy since. When asked about his weight, Bochy said he “dropped a few” to “get out to the mound a little quicker.”
After an offseason in which the Giants spent $259 million on pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto and outfielder Denard Span, Bochy seemed thrilled to finally get his hands on his new toys. “Bobby and our baseball staff did a great job filling those holes,” Bochy said. “It’s a stronger rotation and it’s good to see ownership step up and do what they did — we certainly appreciate that. The big thing is getting guys healthy. It’s hard to lose [Hunter] Pence as we did, along with [Joe] Panik and Cain, but the boys are healthy. They’re so excited to just get back on the field.”
“Bobby and our baseball staff did a great job filling those holes,” Bochy said. “It’s a stronger rotation and it’s good to see ownership step up and do what they did — we certainly appreciate that. The big thing is getting guys healthy. It’s hard to lose [Hunter] Pence as we did, along with [Joe] Panik and Cain, but the boys are healthy. They’re so excited to just get back on the field.”
Health will be a big key for the Giants moving forward after Pence, the team’s emotional leader, played just 52 games after suffering various injuries. Second baseman Joe Panik also missed a significant portion of the season with a back injury, something for Giants fans to keep an eye on.
Cain certainly looked fine out on the links, after a rocky 2015 campaign attempting to return from surgery that removed bone chips from his throwing elbow. He will likely be penciled in as the team’s fifth starter, with Chris Heston waiting in the wings if Cain cannot bounce back from a season in which he posted a staff-worst 5.79 ERA. Regardless of how he pitches, the Giants will be paying Cain a healthy salary — he’s inked to a $127.5 million deal running through 2017.
The Giants will need Cain at his best if they want to win a loaded NL West next season. The Arizona Diamondbacks loaded up, adding pitchers Shelby Miller and Zach Greinke, while the eternally cash-loaded Dodgers are still the Dodgers.
“The Dodgers aren’t going away, Bochy said. “They’re so good, so solid. The Diamondbacks are a lot stronger too. It’s going to be a tough division, and a tough league, even outside of our division.”
If Tuesday’s win was any indication, the Giants look well-prepared for the marathon season ahead. As Bochy put it, “we’re ready to go.”
Cover Image: San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy smiles during batting practice for the Giants’ exhibition baseball game against the Oakland Athletics on Friday, April 3, 2015, in San Francisco. Before the game the Giants announced that Bochy was given a contract extension through 2019. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)