The Giants opened Spring Training in Scottsdale Tuesday without six of some of the organization’s most beloved players — some lost to free agency, some lost to retirement and others left jobless in the team’s quest to give younger players the space to flourish after a demoralizing end to the Even Year.
Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Gregor Blanco, Jake Peavy and Angel Pagan were noticeably absent at the team’s FanFest media day, and teammates made clear that their presence will be missed. Brandon Belt summed up the loss:
“They were part of the guys, they’ve been here ever since I’ve been here. So you feel like a piece of the team is missing and you feel like part of the clubhosue is missing and that’s the tough thing about it. Plus I think we’ve all become close friends over the years so it’s tough to see those guys go. All of them were really good teammates and I think everybody, even though we have different personalities, we meshed together really well. A piece of the puzzle is gone, but I think the management does a good job of putting pieces together.”
Here’s what he and some other teammates had to say, with some added best moments:
When the Chronicle broke that beloved Giants color commentator Mike Krukow would be cutting down his travel hours due to illness, rumors started to circulate that Lopez and fellow former reliever Jeremy Affeldt would fill in those gaps.
A seat behind the booth seems a natural fit for a newly-retired Lopez, said Ty Blach. He’s known for his wry and active dugout commentary:
“He’s a master commentator.”
Some on Twitter joked that Lopez would just call lefty at-bats, to which Belt replied:
“Just come in when the lefty’s up and then beat it after, that would be awesome, I think everyone would enjoy that.”
Lopez’s voice would translate well from dugout to booth, his teammates agree, but his team-centered mentality should take him deeper into baseball’s offices, said Hunter Pence:
“Yeah,I’m gonna miss the comments and the leadership … He’s one of the greatest leaders I ever worked with. (His four World Series rings), that’s not a coincidence, he’s a powerful leader.”
Lopez’s mentorship won’t be forsaken; the Giants’ front office intends to have him at Spring Training this year as an instructor. His former teammates were glad to hear it, and Belt said it could just be the beginning for Lopez:
“I wish they would bring him on full time so that we can hang out, but honestly I think he’ll be around the game in some capacity and I think if he chooses to go the announcing route he would be good at that, but honestly I can see him in a front office some day.”
Best moment: It’s hard to pick one. How about his 19 consecutive scoreless postseason innings? His career 2.47 ERA with the Giants?
Perhaps winning the Willie Mac Award in his final season fully captures Lopez’s presence at AT&T Park. He was a unique arm with a unique job that helped shape Bruce Bochy‘s bullpen usage through the recent high years, but he was also the ultimate teammate.
Romo was drafted by the Giants in 2005, made his debut in 2008 and was integral to the team’s three World Series runs. He was an all-around Giant, an anchor in an otherwise unsettled bullpen.
An injury-riddled season and imminent bullpen shakeup turned the Forever Giant back to his Los Angeles roots — yeah, he’ll be in blue and white in 2017, a sight his teammates had a hard time picturing.
Asked if he hoped Giants fans would cheer Romo on despite the leap down south, Brandon Crawford said he expects an ovation:
“Sure, for his first outing … After that, I don’t know.”
Said Bruce Bochy:
“It’s always a strange sight at first. We’ll probably see him in Spring Training. You’ve got to move on just like he did, and we have.”
The Giants will see their longtime teammate quite a bit, at least this season–Romo signed a one year, $3 million deal with the Dodgers– and perhaps reminisce with fans about his big-time pitches in even bigger situations.
That one fastball capped Romo’s most clutch postseason with the Giants. He recorded saves in the final three games of the World Series sweep. He also pitched four perfect innings in Games 3 and 5 of the NLDS, helping his team become the first in the NL to overcome a 0-2 deficit in that series.
Casilla left San Francisco for the team that drafted him, Oakland, with a two-year, $11 million deal.
His departure was odd. A mediocre 2016 blemished by spectacular blown saves triggered the fan base, who booed at times when he took the mound. Casilla’s NL-leading nine blown saves rang louder than his sixth-most 31 saves.
But his flops should not obscure his feats; Casilla tallied a 2.42 ERA and 123 saves in his six years as a Giant.
Best moment: Casilla was reliable as Bochy’s latest sure-fire closer, against lefties or righties, for one out or six. Reliability is boring, so I’d say his best moment is when he slapped an RBI single–his first career hit–on a 0-1 pitch with the bases loaded to score Buster Posey.
Pagan won two rings in his five years with the Giants, becoming best known for his incomparable speed, made a sight to behold with his impeccable locks flowing behind him as he sped. He gave the Giants a .281 average with 28 triples and 81 stolen bases.
He was also one of the few Giants’ with a key to Kershaw (key to a pretty jammed door, though). Pagan is hitting .290 with a home run against the ace.
Pagan led the league in triples in 2012 with 15, following that monster with a measly three in 2013. He would have had one more had not been for his best moment: the walk-off inside the park home run.
The White Shark was an ideal utility player, a key pinch hitter, speedy on the base-paths and backup outfielder.
Blanco won two rings with the Giants and could pop up in the Giants’ opposing dugout quite a bit this season — he signed a minor league contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
At his peak with the Giants–in his first years with the team–Blanco was 10.3 runs better than the average outfielder in 141 games, according to FanGraphs. His reliability in the outfield is inextricably linked to one of the biggest moments in Giants history: his diving catch at the warning track to preserve Matt Cain’s perfecto in 2012.
Peavy came to San Francisco to play for his old manager in a trade with Boston in 2014, marking the Giants’ attempt to solidify a shaky rotation amid a somewhat unlikely playoff push.
The move paid off as Peavy strung together a 2.17 ERA and six wins in 12 starts for San Francisco that second half.
His best moment: Getting pumped up over a Crawnik double-play that knocked Wilson Ramos out in Game 1 of the NLDS. Peavy went on to blank the Nats in 5-2/3 innings, allowing two hits and three walks.
Peavy sputtered through 2016, posting a 5.54 ERA, and his name rarely crossed the hot stove in 2017, save for a few rumors of his return to San Diego.