camp issues at a glance

  • 1. The Cy of Old: Tim Lincecum struggled with confidence and conviction last season while posting an N.L.-worst 5.18 ERA, but there's no better place to get your swagger back than the Cactus League, where rosters are filled with journeymen and minor leaguers. Lincecum is notorious for his slow starts (he has a 5.04 career ERA in the spring) but heads to Scottsdale with less hair, more muscle and a burning desire to bounce back.

  • 2. Brandon Belt's glove: Buster Posey's MVP season included 29 starts at first base, and manager Bruce Bochy already has said the Giants will employ a similar plan in an attempt to keep Posey fresh and his all-world bat in the heart of the lineup. Belt appears poised for a breakout, and the path to a full-time job might include the occasional stint in left field. Expect him to be carrying multiple gloves throughout the spring.

    Tim Lincecum, Feb. 8, 2013.
    Tim Lincecum, Feb. 8, 2013. (Alex Pavlovic, Mercury News)

  • 3. The sixth man: The five starting pitchers made 160 of 162 starts last season, a feat that will be almost impossible to repeat. There is no leader in the clubhouse for on-deck duty, but 24-year-olds Chris Heston (2.24 ERA in Double-A) and Michael Kickham (3.05) are a couple of prospects who could break away from the pack.

  • 4. The next Gregor Blanco: A year ago, Blanco was an unknown veteran outfielder ticketed for Triple-A Fresno. He won a roster spot early in camp, eventually grabbed a starting job, saved Matt Cain's perfect game and started all four World Series games. The Giants will have 30 nonroster invitees in camp, and the team's history says one of them will follow the same path that Blanco and Joaquin Arias took to the big leagues a year ago.

  • 5. Angel Villalona's return: General manager Brian Sabean insists that Villalona's presence -- four years after he was charged with murder in the Dominican Republic -- will not be a distraction. The charges were dropped, and Villalona was cleared by the U.S. government and MLB. Still, in a clubhouse that jettisoned steroid cheat Melky Cabrera and counts chemistry as its greatest asset, Villalona's arrival is worth watching.

  • 6. Future Giants: Young homegrown starters Posey, Belt, Madison Bumgarner, Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Crawford were recently sized up for championship rings. Who's next? The Giants have plenty of young pitching on the way, and top prospects Gary Brown, Joe Panik and Heath Hembree all will be back in big league camp. Right-hander Brett Bochy, the son of the manager, also will get a long look.

  • 7. The World Baseball Classic: It's popular with patriotic players but a nightmare for managers and pitching coaches. The Giants lose nine big leaguers to WBC rosters, and Bochy will be watching to make sure Sergio Romo, Ryan Vogelsong and others return intact. Sandoval's spring conditioning will be interrupted by a stretch representing Venezuela.

    -- ALEX PAVLOVIC