Steve Holm, for example, arrived at spring training just hoping to earn a promotion to Triple-A. Instead, he shot all the way to a role as the Giants' No. 2 catcher.
"Best day of my life," Holm said, minutes after sending a text message to his parents.
Holm, 28, spent last season at Double-A Connecticut but impressed manager Bruce Bochy with his defensive work behind the plate this spring. It didn't hurt that Elizier Alfonzo hit .091 and Guillermo Rodriguez hit .118 to open the door for a catching spot.
Holm wasn't the only out-of-nowhere story.
Keiichi Yabu, who spent the 2006 season pitching for Mexicali of the Mexican Pacific League and didn't pitch at all last season, made the team as a long reliever. Yabu, 39, had a 4.11 ERA in 15-1/3 spring innings. Yabu was on the A's Opening Day roster in 2005.
Other breakthroughs included Granada High School product Erick Threets, the hard-throwing left-handed reliever who once missed the entire 2004 season because of left-shoulder surgery.
Merkin Valdez also capped a comeback by making the team. He missed all of last season after having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow Sept. 27, 2006.
"It's a great story. It's been a long road for him," Bochy said. "He's worked hard and really cleaned up his delivery."
Holm, Yabu and shortstop Brian Bocock represent the most non-roster invitees to make the team since 1992 when Cory Snyder, Craig Colbert, Jim McNamara and Jeff Reed cracked the Opening Day roster.
Today's starting lineup features a mild few surprises. Rich Aurilia moves up to the No. 2 hole; Aaron Rowand, expected to hit fifth, dips down to sixth.
Aurilia's slot isn't that much of an upset -- he has 1,857 career plate appearances hitting second -- but dropping Rowand that low might raise eyebrows. The Giants gave him a five-year, $60 million deal to serve as a key figure in the post-Barry Bonds era.
"(Bochy) can hit me where ever he wants to hit me. I have no qualms," Rowand said. "Whatever he feels best, that's what we're going to do."
It's been a struggle
Barry Zito hopes his fourth career Opening Day start today goes better than his first three. The left-hander is 0-3 with a 9.49 ERA after starting last year for the Giants and twice previously for the A's.
Zito joins Vida Blue (1979, '81) and Kirk Rueter (2003-04) as the only San Francisco left-handers to start more than one opener.
Award goes to ...
Bocock, who makes the jump from Class A player to Opening Day shortstop, earned the Harry S. Jordan Award as voted by teammates.
Named after the Giants former longtime minor league trainer, the award goes to "the player in his first big league camp whose performance and dedication in spring training best exemplify the San Francisco Giants spirit," according to the team.
Bocock hit .183 but made some nifty plays in the field. He will play shortstop until incumbent Omar Vizquel returns from knee surgery later this month.
Bocock becomes the first Giants player to make his major league debut with an Opening Day start since Robby Thompson and Will Clark did so on April 8, 1986. ... Other moves to get the roster down to the mandated 25-player limit: The Giants reassigned right-hander Bartolome Fortunato and infielder Justin Leone to minor league camp. The team also placed reliever Vinnie Chulk, starter Noah Lowry, infielder Kevin Frandsen and Vizquel on the 15-day disabled list -- all retroactive to March 21. ... Vizquel went 0-for-2 in four innings of a minor league game in Scottsdale, Ariz., his second game as he begins his rehabilitation. Chulk threw a scoreless inning in that game, striking out one and walking one.
-- Daniel Brown, MediaNews staff
FOR OPENERS ...
The Giants' tentative opening day lineup against the Dodgers today, as announced by manager Bruce Bochy:
LF Brian Roberts
1B Rich Aurilia
RF Randy Winn
C Bengie Molina
2B Ray Durham
CF Aaron Rowand
3B Jose Castillo
SS Brian Bocock
P Barry Zito