Giants excited to watch World Baseball Classic
Teammates express support for sizable San Francisco representation
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants will be more than just interested spectators during the World Baseball Classic.
At least eight players and hitting coach Hensley "Bam Bam" Meulens, who's managing the Netherlands, will represent seven different countries in the 16-team international tournament. The San Francisco influence won't be ubiquitous, though it might seem that way.
"Probably almost every game you turn on is going to have somebody from the Giants," left-hander Eric Surkamp said.
The Classic's presence obviously means Giants absences. Meulens departed last Tuesday to help prepare the Netherlands for its Saturday opener against Korea. Players representing other nations will begin leaving camp Saturday, which partly compelled manager Bruce Bochy to use his probable Opening Day lineup in Thursday's 4-3 Cactus League loss to the Seattle Mariners. Bochy might not have the chance to field this group until after the Classic's March 19 final at AT&T Park.
The Giants' Classic contingent includes left-hander Jeremy Affeldt and right-hander Ryan Vogelsong (United States), third baseman Pablo Sandoval and second baseman Marco Scutaro (Venezuela), outfielder Angel Pagan (Puerto Rico), right-hander Santiago Casilla (Dominican Republic), right-hander Sergio Romo (Mexico) and Minor League catcher Tyler LaTorre (Italy). Outfielder Andres Torres (oblique) will be sidelined for a week and won't be able to participate for Puerto Rico. Left-hander Jose Mijares (elbow) is ailing and probably won't be cleared to play for Venezuela.
Many of the Giants remaining in camp will watch the Classic and their teammates out of curiosity and, of course, support.
"It's going to be hard not to follow," right-hander Tim Lincecum said. Referring to the horde of Giants in the Classic, Lincecum added, "I think that's pretty incredible."
First baseman Brett Pill plans on making a trip or two to Chase Field in Phoenix to watch LaTorre, his longtime Minor League teammate, perform in person for Team Italia during the first round.
Pill and others doubtlessly will be watching from the stands or on television when Vogelsong, Team USA's No. 2 starter, confronts LaTorre and Italy on March 9.
"That'll be cool to see -- a friendly matchup," Pill said.
Should the U.S. and Venezuela reach the second round, a more intriguing confrontation might unfold.
"You could see Vogelsong pitching to Pablo. They talk so much trash to each other," right fielder Hunter Pence said. "You look forward to seeing that moment. You hope it happens."
The possibility exists that fans worldwide will embrace a Giant who performs with flair. Maybe it'll be Sandoval, who has the potential to captivate an audience when he's in full Kung Fu Panda mode. Perhaps it'll be Vogelsong, with his on-the-mound glare framed vividly on TV. It could be Romo, whose exuberance will enliven every game he pitches for Mexico.
It could be almost anybody.
"We have so many different guys, so many different personalities," Surkamp said. "Vogey's a guy who goes about his business and competes every time. You have to respect that a ton. Then you have a guy like Pablo who can put on a show with the bat and in the field. You've got a lot of guys who can bring excitement."
Said Pence, "That's why you play the games. You go out there and let the moments take care of themselves."
Several of the Classic-bound Giants look primed for action. Vogelsong has thrown five shutout innings in two starts. Affeldt is unscored upon in three appearances. Sandoval (.500), Pagan (.308) and Scutaro (.300) are swinging confidently.
"They're all ready to go," said outfielder Gregor Blanco, who played for Venezuela in the 2009 Classic. "They're really prepared."
If nothing else, the Classic could be an educational experience of sorts.
"It's going to open the eyes of a lot of people that have not really had the insight to baseball. You've got Bam Bam coaching the Netherlands; some people might think, 'Wow, the Netherlands and baseball?' They don't really go together. But they're taking it just as serious as a team that has the prowess of teams like Venezuela and the U.S. that take the sport to another level."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.