SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Though Angel Pagan apparently covers all muscle groups in his extensive workout regimen, he's particularly diligent about strengthening his shoulders, which he deems necessary for hitting."It helps you have 500 at-bats and not get tired," the center fielder said. Pagan will need this sturdiness to handle the responsibility, both practically and symbolically, that the Giants are likely to entrust him with this season. Manager Bruce Bochy said Friday that Pagan, acquired during the offseason from the New York Mets, will bat leadoff.
"That's our thinking right now," Bochy said after the Giants' initial full-squad workout. Previously, Bochy had said that he was considering both Pagan and Melky Cabrera to occupy the top of the order.Thus, Pagan will receive the first opportunity each game to stimulate the offense that ranked last in the National League in scoring a year ago. The Giants were below average in virtually every facet, beginning with the leadoff spot. Their No. 1 hitters finished next to last in the NL in batting (.232, compared with the league average of .268) and on-base percentage (.292, below the .331 league average). Pagan's background won't automatically improve these figures. But it suggests that Bochy made a solid choice.
As an ardent boxing fan, Pagan knows more than a little bit about maintaining the pugnacious attitude needed to cope with Major League pitching.And anybody who carries his mother's legacy with him onto the field can be counted on to play with heart. Pagan, 30, embraced boxing while growing up in Puerto Rico. He was especially inspired by Felix Trinidad, who holds the record for most welterweight title defenses (15). Pagan once watched Trinidad train, which spurred him to test his physical limits. Exercising daily isn't enough for Pagan. His workouts occupy a large portion of his waking hours, since he divides his routine into three phases: stretching and weightlifting at a gymnasium; running and performing agility drills at a track; then concluding with baseball-related activities. As a result, Pagan has chiseled himself an enviable physique.
"You feel like if you touch him, it's going to hurt you," said Giants infielder Mike Fontenot, a teammate of Pagan's with the Chicago Cubs."A lot of people ask me where I get my work ethic from," Pagan said.
Citing the memory of Trinidad, he added, "It made me realize that if I wanted to be a good baseball player, I had to train as hard as I could so I could make it to the big leagues."Pagan often has company at his training sessions. When he can, he brings his wife, Windy ("like Chicago weather"), and their daughters, Anyelina and Brianna. Pagan said that he cherishes the opportunity to be "an example for my kids and they can appreciate where they come from." Pagan's devotion to his family, even while fulfilling the obligation of training, is an honest trait. After all, he learned baseball from his mother, Gloria Figueroa, who was such an accomplished softball player that she occasionally competed in men's leagues. Pagan was only 5 or 6 years old when his mother began his baseball tutorials.
"I'm grateful that she taught me how to play this beautiful game," he said.After 10 professional seasons spent mostly in the Minors, the switch-hitting Pagan blossomed in 2010 with the Mets, batting .290 with 11 home runs, 69 RBIs and 37 stolen bases in 46 attempts. His statistics dove last year to .262, seven homers and 56 RBIs. He also stole 32 bases in 39 tries. Pagan admitted that he tried too hard to duplicate his breakout season.
"I put too much pressure on myself," he said. "And I just wasn't myself."Starving for offensive upgrades, the Giants still saw fit to trade center fielder Andres Torres and right-hander Ramon Ramirez to the Mets for Pagan. His reputation, as they say, preceded him. "He brings a lot of energy to the ballpark every day. He's a huge asset," said infielder Ryan Theriot, another of Pagan's ex-Cubs teammates. "That's the kind of person," Fontenot said, "that you want in your clubhouse."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.