Giants Begin Spring Training

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Barry Bonds' alleged steroid use is no longer a major distraction for the San Francisco Giants.

Having broke ties with their former slugger last year, San
Francisco is banking on several high-profile offseason acquisitions
to continue their recovery in the NL West.

The Giants added Hall of Fame-credentialed left-hander Randy
Johnson, shortstop Edgar Renteria and bullpen arms Bob Howry and
Jeremy Affeldt to a team that finished 72-90 in 2008, but improved
as the season went on, winning 28 of their final 55 games.

It promises to be a quiet camp, with baseball questions: where
does Pedro Sandoval play? Who will win the second base job? Will
Noah Lowry return to health? Can Tim Lincecum defend his NL Cy
Young Award?

"I'd rather keep things a little simpler, to be honest," said
Giants manager Bruce Bochy, in his second season after spending the
previous 12 in San Diego. "I'd rather keep the focus on the team
and what we need to do. All of us have been in the steroid thing. I
had (Ken) Caminiti. It wears on you after awhile."

Former Padre third baseman Caminiti admitted after his career
ended that he used steroids in his NL MVP season with San Diego in

Bochy spoke after being asked about Dodger manager Joe Torre's
press conference on Friday, which mostly focused on questions about
Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez and his admitted steroid use.

"I think any manager you talk to, he would rather talk about
his team," said Bochy on Saturday, a day before the first workout
of pitchers and catchers on Sunday.

Of his group, Bochy added: "My hope is there is a renewed sense
of urgency, but also a sense of confidence with the new additions
and the improvements we made last year."

Johnson will enter the rotation after signing an $8 million
contract the day after Christmas, a deal that gives him the
opportunity to earn another $5 million in performance and
incentives bonuses.

"He's not trying to power his way through the hitters any more.
He's more of a pitcher now," said Bochy, who has witnessed many of
Johnson's best years in the NL West. "He still has very good
stuff. He's 92 (mph fastball) with a good, hard slider. That's
still having great stuff. He's adjusted well with his pitching

Lincecum, Matt Cain and Barry Zito are the other rotation
certainties, with lefties Jonathan Sanchez and Lowry competing for
the No. 5 spot. Lowry missed all of 2008 after undergoing left
forearm and elbow surgeries.

Lowry suffered tightness in his left scapula in his latest
throwing session and will be held back when pitchers begin
throwing, but Bochy termed it a very minor setback.

"We're going to back off a little bit with him," Bochy said.
"We don't want to try to rush him. We were hoping he would be with
all the other pitchers at this point, but he's not quite ready. He
just wasn't quite ready to throw three times a week."

Sanchez will miss at least a week of spring training while
playing with Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. He is
scheduled to start an exhibition game March 4 against Tampa Bay,
and then start for Puerto Rico in a first-round game March 10.

Affeldt and Howry will be the primary setup men for closer Brian
Wilson, who had 41 saves last season, tied for second in the NL.

"It was vital for our club. We had some problems there last
year. So to tighten up the pen, we felt, was a priority for us,"
Bochy said.

Sandoval, 22, appears to have played his way into the starting
lineup after hitting .345 in 41 games last season. He played first
base, third base and catcher last season but will begin the spring
at third, with first as a fallback spot.

"We have seven weeks to give him a lot of work at third. That's
a priority. This will be some valuable time to get him
experience," Bochy said.

If Sandoval stays at third, Travis Ishikawa, John Bowker and
Josh Phelps would be the top candidates at first base. Kevin
Frandsen, Emmanuel Burriss and Eugenio Velez are the candidates at
second, Burriss moving from shortstop after Renteria's signing.

Bochy indicated that could be a spring-long battle. "It's going
to be a good competition taking place there. We really won't know
which way we are going to go as a starter until close to breaking
camp," Bochy said.


Sanchez is the only Giant who will participate in the WBC,
Bochy said. Catcher Bengie Molina and Sandoval were asked, but
neither plans to attend.

The Giants will do their conditioning work after daily practices, Bochy said, rather than before, as they did last year. "I wanted to have the guys' legs fresh when they go through all the drills," he said.