SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants expect a raucous crowd for Saturday's Cactus League opener at Scottsdale Stadium, and the team's groundskeepers took to the field Friday afternoon to provide a not-so-subtle reminder to fans of what this current group of Giants has accomplished.
Painted behind home plate in Giant block letters are the words "2012 World Champions." The quest for a repeat begins Saturday when the Giants host the Los Angeles Angels. There are few position battles in what has thus far been a quiet camp, but one of them will get off to a rousing start.
Right-handers Chad Gaudin, Scott Proctor, Jean Machi, Shane Loux and Dan Otero are scheduled to throw in Saturday's opener, and all are vying for the final spot in the bullpen. Ryan Vogelsong will get the start and Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo and George Kontos are scheduled to see action. Manager Bruce Bochy's son, Brett, could also come on in relief.
The matchup at Scottsdale Stadium is the first of 37 exhibition games for the defending champions, who will get plenty of looks at those aiming for a different N.L. West result. The Giants visit the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday and play 10 games against division rivals. General manager Brian Sabean said he thinks the West is one of the most underrated groups in sports.
"It's a tough division to win," Sabean said. "And even though we're the defending champions, our first goal is always to win the division."
The early move brings a raw but intriguing arm into the system. The 21-year-old Soptic has a 5.09 ERA in 30 relief appearances over the past two seasons, but according to Baseball America, Soptic had the best fastball in the White Sox minor league system. Soptic was a third-round pick in 2011 out of Johnson County Community College.
Gillaspie was the Giants' sandwich pick (37th overall) in the 2008 draft and set a franchise record by making his MLB debut 96 days after the draft thanks to a clause that was worked into his contract. He hit for a high average (.287) in five minor league seasons but never broke through in the Majors, hitting just .205 with one homer and four RBIs in 29 games.
"He understood," Bochy said. "This gives him probably a little better chance of breaking (camp) with a Major League club. This makes sense."
The move frees up a spot on the 40-man roster, but Sabean said not to expect a corresponding move. The Giants generally prefer to have one or two open spots on the 40-man.