Giants-Pirates: What to watch for

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Giants-Pirates: What to watch for

Programming note: Giants 2012 Opening Day coverage begins today at 12 p.m. with Giants Pregame Live, then Kruk and Kuip are behind the mic to call the Pirates vs. Giants at 1:30 p.m., only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area!

SAN FRANCISCO The Giants open their 13th season at AT&T Park, and there wont be a banner raising or a ring ceremony included in the pregame festivities. Instead, theres rain in the forecast.

The Giants do not expect dampened spirits from the stands, though. The club sold out every game last season and could do the same in 2012, even though last years team missed the playoffs and failed to defend its World Series title

Here are a few things to watch for when the anthems and flyovers are complete, and the Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates take the field:

NEW FACES

Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan, Ryan Theriot and Gregor Blanco will make their home debuts. With his fast start and the flair in his game, Cabrera could establish himself as a fan favorite. Blancos nickname, the White Shark, makes him a natural to be the next hot seller at the plush hat stands. Pagan has spoken with excitement about playing his home games at a ballpark packed with passionate fans. Bet you couldnt guess he was a Met last year.

And then youve got Buster Posey. Despite his case of the shingles, hes expected to start behind the plate. Expect the biggest ovation to be for the Giants beloved catcher, who will be playing his first regular-season game at China Basin since May 25 the night he was involved in a devastating collision near home plate.

SHIVER ME TIMBERS

The Giants havent mopped the poopdeck with the Pirates recently, capturing the season series just three times in the last eight years. Thats not a proud outcome against a franchise that hasnt posted a winning record since Barry Bonds left as a free agent after the 1992 season. (Yes, seriously.)

Last year, the Giants took two of three in PNC Park but lost two of three at home.
RELATED: Stat-Pack -- Giants 9-3 in AT&T Park openers

NO UMBRELLA GIVEAWAY

The weather calls for intermittent showers that should pass through the area by the mid-afternoon. There have been just five rainouts at AT&T Park since the Giants opened their waterfront home in 2000; the last one came April 12, 2006 vs. Houston.

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Right-hander James McDonald (0-0, 3.00 ERA) takes on Matt Cain (0-0, 7.50) on Friday. First pitch is at 1:35 p.m. PDT.

The Pirates havent announced a starter to oppose Barry Zito (1-0, 0.00) on Saturday (6:05 p.m. PDT).

Former Giants right-hander and 2011 NL All-Star Kevin Correia (0-0, 1.50) will face right-hander Ryan Vogelsong on Sunday (1:05 p.m.) Vogelsong came through his two rehab starts for Triple-A Fresno with no lower back problems and will be activated from the disabled list in time to make the start.

Giants spring training Day 6: Bochy looks for improvement on bases

Giants spring training Day 6: Bochy looks for improvement on bases

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants always put together a long list of potential minor league free agents as the offseason approaches and they tend to go hard after two or three players from that group. One of the guys who got the hard sell over the winter was speedy outfielder Wynton Bernard, and the Giants were attractive for reasons beyond the departures of Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco.

“I thought it was a good opportunity, and it also was a good fit for me because I’m from California,” Bernard said. 

Bernard is technically from Padres territory, but that gives him a connection to one of the men he’s hoping to impress. When Bernard was playing for Rancho Bernardo High, he often went up against a Poway High team that included a young Brett Bochy. Bruce never saw Bernard play because his job kept him away from most of Brett’s games, but he should see plenty of the 26-year-old this spring as the Giants look for a needed speed dimension. 

A big part of the staff overhaul was about making sure the Giants fare better on the bases. Roberto Kelly and Billy Hayes are out and Phil Nevin and Jose Alguacil are in. The Giants stole 79 bases last season, ranking eighth in the National League, and it’s not like they made up for the lack of small-ball by hitting the ball out of the park. Advanced metrics — tracked externally and also by the Giants — showed an inability to make an impact on the bases. According to BsR, an all-encompassing metric tracked by FanGraphs, the Giants were below average, ranking 17th in the majors. 

“We just want to be smarter baserunners,” Bochy said. “You always want to be aggressive. Everyone has the same philosophy — run hard — but it’s the old adage ‘strong to compete, smart to win.’”

A full season of Eduardo Nuñez will help, as would 162 games of Hunter Pence — who tends to make things happen on his own — and Joe Panik, one of the team’s smartest runners. Jimmy Rollins could provide speed off the bench, and Bernard hopes to make himself a viable option in the outfield. He stole 23 bags in 28 attempts last season for the Tigers’ Double-A and Triple-A teams and he stole 88 total bases the two seasons before 2016. 

The Giants know the kind of potential Bernard has, so early in the offseason he got a call telling him to hook up with fellow San Diego resident Vince Coleman, a legendary baserunner who would be joining the staff. The two worked out often in advance of spring training. 

“The Giants said he was in the area and I called him 20 minutes later,” Bernard said. “I feel like I can add a different dynamic with my speed.”

Bernard can play all three outfield spots and he sports a .360 on-base percentage in the minors. He’s likely ticketed for Triple-A for now, but a player with the same profile showed up in camp in 2012, and it wasn’t long before Gregor Blanco had locked up a roster spot. 

Whether Bernard is part of the mix, or it’s a Gorkys Hernandez or Nuñez or Kelby Tomlinson, Bochy knows he needs a little more athleticism and baserunning savvy in a division where the games are often won by one run. 

“We probably made more mistakes than we should have last year,” he said. “The numbers show it.”

CUETO UPDATE: The co-ace remains in the Dominican Republic, where he is tending to his father. The Giants don’t have a timetable for Cueto’s arrival, but he didn’t miss anything Saturday. The workout was banged because of rain. 

Cueto is at a hotel a few minutes from the club’s Santo Domingo facility and he has been working out there. The hope is that Cueto’s father soon gets well enough to travel to Arizona, where Cueto can continue to take care of him. 

NEW FACE: Slade Heathcott, a former Yankee, signed a minor league deal with the Giants on Friday. He will be in minor league camp this spring, not big league camp. The Giants liked his athleticism. 

QUOTABLE: “You can always look back, study it, learn from it … the second half, I think for everybody, you learn from it. Did we drop our guard? Hopefully it wasn’t complacency, which lets you think you have a bigger margin for error. Hopefully you learn from it.” — Bochy, when asked about the lesson learned last season. 

Report: Giants sign former Yankees top OF prospect Slade Heathcott

Report: Giants sign former Yankees top OF prospect Slade Heathcott

The Giants reportedly added to their outfield competition by signing former Yankees top prospect and 2009 first-round draft pick, outfielder Slade Heathcott. 

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports was first to report the news

Heathcott, 26, has only appeared in 17 MLB games, all in the 2015 season for the Yankees. In his short promotion, the lefty batted .400 (10-for-25) with two home runs and two doubles. 

Through multiple stints in the minors, Heathcott has slashed .266/.343/.390 with 26 home runs for his career. 

San Francisco reportedly signed Heathcott to a minor league deal with a big league invite for spring training.