Well-armed for a dominant run

Series champs boast pitching few teams can match

November 08, 2010|By Phil Rogers

Pity the Rockies. They have two of the National League's best hitters in Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki and one of baseball's best pitchers in Ubaldo Jimenez.

They also have a huge challenge ahead of them in 2011. Ditto the Dodgers, the Diamondbacks and the surprising Padres.

Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Jonathan Sanchez aren't going anywhere after carrying the Giants to the World Series championship. Barry Zito also remains around, and there wasn't another team in the playoffs that wouldn't have wanted him on its roster. That's how strong the Giants' pitching staff is.

Cain is the only member of the starting rotation who isn't under control for at least three more years, and he signed an extension last spring that takes him through 2012. That's one season beyond the point at which he could have become a free agent, and give general manager Brian Sabean credit for getting an extension that stops his situation from being a distraction.

Between them, Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Sanchez and Zito started 165 of the Giants' 177 games. They appear entrenched not only for 2011 but also '12, as does closer Brian Wilson unless Sabean decides to see what he can get for one of his young guns.

Sanchez, who wore out in October, is the most likely guy to go. He will become an expensive proposition as he has three more cracks at arbitration, barring a contract extension.

If Sabean wanted, he could fill multiple position-player needs offering Lincecum or Cain in trade at the deadline next July.

The Giants' lineup, of course, is a huge question. They won a World Series with a group that had platoon right fielder Nate Schierholtz as the longest-tenured player, and he has been around only since 2007. Catcher Buster Posey is a great guy to build around and Sabean says 22-year-old first baseman Brandon Belt is the same kind of hitter as Posey.

Belt, who hit .352 with 23 homers and 112 RBIs between three minor-league levels in 2010, probably will be Aubrey Huff's understudy next season, although he has been used in the outfield at times.

There's no guarantee Huff will be back. He is a free agent, as is left fielder Pat Burrell and invaluable infielder Juan Uribe. Shortstop Edgar Renteria, MVP in the World Series, became a free agent when the Giants declined to exercise his $10.5 million option.

The Renteria decision wasn't surprising given his recent run of injuries and the understanding Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Zito and Wilson will earn $13 million to $17 million more next year than they did in 2010. But it's unclear what's going to happen on the left side of the infield, as well as first base.

Sabean said the Giants are keeping "an open mind'' about re-signing Renteria. That could mean they don't bring back Uribe, even though he outplayed the extremely popular Pablo Sandoval.

Aaron Rowand, who hit .230 with 11 homers, and Mark DeRosa, whose 2010 was a mess because of problems with his left wrist, also are major unknowns as the champions go forward.

But when you have pitching like the Giants have, and a young catcher who is also a run producer, just about everything else is discretionary. That's the reality that will make this an uneasy winter for the Rockies.

Stamp of approval: After serving as bench coach for Mike Scioscia, the Angels' highly respected manager, Ron Roenicke figures to have a head start on success as a manager.

Roenicke, named to replace Ken Macha for the Brewers, is following the same path that worked well for the Rays' Joe Maddon, who completed his education on Scioscia's staff. Bud Black was the Angels' pitching coach before getting hired to manage the Padres.

Angels vice president Tim Mead said it's no coincidence Maddon and Black were so well prepared when their chances came along.

"The inclusion and involvement that Mike allows with them is critical,'' he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "They have a voice. Every day before workouts and after, in spring training, they have meetings. They have daily meetings during the season. Observations and opinions are sought after. It's an environment that Mike has created to allow free-flow opinions.''

The last word: "Over the last week, maybe a little longer than that, my wife has been on the Internet a lot. So I have two new nicknames — 'Darkhorse,' and 'No. 4.''' — Roenicke, who was considered to be running behind Bobby Valentine, Joey Cora and Bob Melvin in consideration for the Brewers job.

progers@tribune.com

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