A team with more ifs than any other in the league, the Giants could finish first—or fifth. More likely it will be third, where they finished in '55. Manager Bill Rigney has the game's greatest young player in Willie Mays, and proven big leaguers in Dark, Mueller, Lockman and Westrum. The pitching staff is promising and could be brilliant; much depends upon Antonelli's return to 1954 form and the development of Worthington and Monzant. The big problems are second base, third base and left field; Rigney can pick a lineup stressing power hitting and so-so-defense at those positions or he can sacrifice hitting for defensive skill. Whatever he does, if the pitching jells, the Giants will be hard to beat. Like Leo Durocher, Manager Rigney is a fighter but will almost surely boss a more spirited and happier team than operated out of the Polo Grounds last year.
9 WES WESTRUM, CATCHER: A rugged and masterful performer who had much to do with making the Giants World Champions in 1954, though he hit only .187 that year. His head and arm are as good as ever, and Johnny Mize has been giving him batting tips all spring. The Giants pray that, at 33, Westrum can become a hitter too.
19 ALVIN DARK, SHORTSTOP: The Giants' field captain and still, at 33, the key to their infield; a little slower in the joints this spring but a fiery competitor and a dangerous man on base or when the Giants need a run batted in.
24 WILLIE MAYS, CENTER FIELD: With him the Giants could win a pennant; without him—they'd just as soon move to Minneapolis. A great outfielder with speed and with one of the game's most deadly arms. Last year he hit 51 home runs. This spring he says: "I feel so strong it scares me."
43 JOHNNY ANTONELLI, PITCHER: Big and easy left-hander won 21 games in 1954, must do it again if Giants hope to regain championship. Last year still had all the pitches—fast ball, curve, changeup—but lost more games than he won (14-16). At 26, he is clearly due to regain old form, become the Giants' No. 1 pitcher and one of league's big winners.
Other Giant strong points are steady hitting of Veterans Don Mueller and Whitey Lockman, power of Dusty Rhodes (who still remains a defensive question mark in left field), and pitching of Righthanders Jim Hearn and Ruben Gomez, Lefthander Don Liddle and relief work of Hoyt Wilhelm. The questions—and they are many: whether Thompson's legs will hold up at third; whether Harris can handle first; and whether the young right-hander, Ramon Monzant, is now ready for his big year.
NEWCOMERS TO WATCH
20 DARYL SPENCER, INFIELDER: Right-hand power hitter, could solve problems at second—or at third. Had year with Giants before entering Service, hit only .208 but 20 home runs.
32 ALLAN WORTHINGTON, PITCHER: Giants hope he'll be Dodger-stopper. Won 19 at Minneapolis with good control, sizzling fast ball, fair changeup and curve.
44 STEVE RIDZIK, PITCHER: Drafted out of minors, Ridzik gets another chance at the big leagues, looks like valuable relief property and could win starting job.
Foster Castleman can play second base in the big leagues but two bad knees may keep him on the bench. Ed Bressoud may one day take over Dark's job at shortstop but needs seasoning.
BOARD OF STRATEGY
18 BILL RIGNEY, MANAGER: Long groomed as Durocher's successor, the ex-Giant infielder won American Association pennant, Little World Series at Minneapolis. Intelligent, aggressive advocate of "smart" baseball, likes spirited team that can hit and run.
Coaches are RAY MUELLER (2), Rigney's right-hand man at Minneapolis: ex-Cincinnati Manager BUCKY WALTERS (3); DAVEY WILLIAMS (1), last year's pepperbox second baseman.
18 BILL RIGNEY