Pitching Staff Responsible for San Francisco Giants’ Success in 2010

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Pitching Staff Responsible for San Francisco Giants' Success in 2010 As we count down the days until Opening Day, it is time to look at each
of the teams on the Red Sox' 2010 schedule. Our 17th installment
examines the San Francisco Giants.

2009 record: 88-74, third in NL West

Manager: Bruce Bochy

Key additions: IF/OF Mark DeRosa, 1B Aubrey Huff, SP Todd Wellemeyer, RP Guillermo Mota

Key losses: SP Brad Penny, SP Randy Johnson, SP Noah Lowry, OF Randy Winn, RP Bobby Howry, RP Merkin Valdez, 1B Ryan Garko, IF Rich Aurilia

Outlook: The Giants allowed 148 fewer runs in 2009 than they did in 2008, a remarkable improvement that fueled their first winning season since 2004.

However, the issue was and still is whether San Francisco can score enough to complement a spectacular young pitching staff led by two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum.

With neither speed nor power to boast of, the Giants have finished 15th, 15th and 13th in the National League in runs the last three years. Unless a 35-year-old journeyman without a defined position can make all the difference, the offense will remain second-rate.

That's no knock on Mark DeRosa, a quality bat and proven veteran signed to play left field, but neither he nor newly acquired first baseman Aubrey Huff are game-changers. The thinking is that adding those two to go along with budding third base star Pablo Sandoval will at least give manager Bruce Bochy a quality, if not spectacular, middle of the order.

The leadoff man is Aaron Rowand, who has 12 stolen bases over the last three years. Batting second, at least until second baseman Freddy Sanchez returns from a shoulder injury, is Juan Uribe, whose on-base percentage has been below .300 in three of the last four seasons.

As has been the case, expect some low-scoring efforts at AT&T Park this year. That may hold true for opponents for years to come.

Lincecum, 25, is signed through 2011 and if he keeps this up there will be blood in the streets if they ever let him go. Matt Cain, also 25, was nearly as good as Lincecum last year and is under a club option next  year.

Jonathan Sanchez, who threw a no-hitter last year, is 27 and still in his arbitration years. And top prospect Madison Bumgarner is just 20 and projected to open the season in the rotation if he can shake off some spring struggles.

Barry Zito is an ancient 31 and also under contract for a few more years. While his stay in San Francisco has not gone as planned, he did have a very good second half in 2009 and is a much-needed veteran presence in the rotation, especially after Randy Johnson retired.

Still, the youth of the starting five lies in direct contrast to a lineup heavy with 30-somethings. Until there is some balance by the Bay, the Giants will remain in the middle of the pack.

What it means to the Red Sox: Boston heads to San Francisco for the first time since 2004. The three-game series is June 25-27.

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