SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Last season took a little longer for Bruce Bochy to get over.
Same goes for many of his San Francisco players. An even year ended with the Giants short-handed this time, unable to get past the eventual champion Chicago Cubs in the NL Division Series.
That after Bochy’s resilient bunch had won the World Series in 2010, ‘12 and ‘14.
Five Giants relievers blew a three-run lead in the ninth inning of a Game 4 loss to Chicago, just when San Francisco figured it was ready to force a deciding fifth game and have the momentum to win it.
“I think you look at the second half, it was a tough half for everybody, trying to get on track,” Bochy said. “Losing probably wears on everybody a little bit more, I’m sure the fans along with us. It was a tale of two different seasons, really. It’s like any game or any tough streak, you’ve got to move on and focus forward. That was a tough way to go out. You’ve got to let it go, and that’s what I did. Hopefully all the players did as soon as possible.”
Catcher Buster Posey felt the sting of an abrupt playoff exit, too.
He has faced constant questions about his decreased power numbers after he batted .288 with 14 home runs, 33 doubles and 80 RBIs in 146 games.
“This is the first time that we had lost in the playoffs and even coming off of World Series wins, I’ve been ready to go at this time of the year,” Posey said.
The Giants open April 2 at Arizona.
Here’s a preview of what to watch for with San Francisco this season:
RELIABLE NINTH: In that collapse against the Cubs — not to mention so many others late in games down the September stretch — the Giants saw just how valuable a lockdown closer is. Mark Melancon came aboard on a $62 million, four-year contract in December after San Francisco blew 30 saves. Melancon has saved at least 30 games in each of the past three seasons, recording a majors-best 51 in 2015. He went 47 for 51 in save opportunities in 75 relief appearances last season with Pittsburgh and Washington, tied for second-most saves with Baltimore’s Zach Britton and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen. “With the signing of Mark Melancon that’s a good place to start,” Bochy said. Melancon has embraced all things sports science.
LOADED ROTATION: With ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner and 18-game winning righty Johnny Cueto leading the way, the starting group sure looks familiar when it comes to the Giants’ rotation. There’s also 2016 second-half addition Matt Moore and Jeff Samardzija — they combined for 18 Giants wins — with the No. 5 job still a competition between Matt Cain and Ty Blach.
WHAT TO WATCH: The Posey factor: Bochy hopes to pace his 30-year-old catcher behind the plate, perhaps starting him fewer games. The 2010 NL Rookie of the Year and 2012 NL MVP made a career-high 122 starts behind the plate last season and played 123 games at the position in all. He batted .288 with 14 home runs, 33 doubles and 80 RBIs in 146 games and doesn’t know why his power numbers diminished. “Hopefully there’s an adjustment I can make where I can keep that consistent hard contact rate but maybe get a few more balls in the gap or better,” he said.
Bonds is back: Home run king Barry Bonds is back in the organization as a special adviser to CEO Larry Baer.
INFIELD DEPTH: After injuries to second baseman Eduardo Nunez and second baseman Joe Panik last season, the Giants have built depth in the infield, with postseason star Conor Gillaspie a reliable backup. “You can’t have enough depth or even experience,” Bochy said. “We had some good candidates come in not just in the infield but in the outfield competing for a place on this team.”
NEW-LOOK PEN: Gone are three mainstays from the three World Series winners: Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo, who signed with the rival and four-time defending division-champion Los Angeles Dodgers. “Any time you lose that many pieces in your bullpen, it’s a pretty big adjustment,” Bochy said, “Their experience, their leadership and their body of work.”