March 2011

Prediction time for the 2011 Giants

Alright. First pitch for opening day is quickly approaching. So I guess it’s time for a prediction.

But first, a history lesson.

In 2008, the first year of the post-Barry Bonds era, MoreSplashHits was asked to predict a win-loss record for the Giants. We said 70-92. Others scoffed, saying the Giants would be lucky avoid a 100-loss season.


The result: 72-90.

In 2009, the question was posed again. MoreSplashHits said 83-79. The reaction was: Really? A winning record?

The result: 88-74.

Last year, on this very blog, MoreSplashHits projected a 90-72 season.

The result: 92-70 .. and a World Series title.

OK, so I didn’t project that latter fact. But then, who did?

So what about 2011?

Some might look at the lineup and say the 2011 team is almost the same that ended 2010, with the exception of Brandon Belt at 1B  and Miguel Tejada at SS.

But really, you need to look at last year’s opening-day lineup.

Players who are the same: Aubrey Huff and Pablo Sandoval. That’s it.

Last year’s opening eight were: 1B Huff, 2B Juan Uribe, SS Edgar Renteria, 3B Sandoval, C Bengie Molina, LF Mark DeRosa, CF Aaron Rowand, RF John Bowker.

This season, Brandon Belt is new at first base. Freddy Sanchez did not debut until May because he was recovering from shoulder surgery. Tejada takes over at shortstop. Buster Posey didn’t get called up until late May. Pat Burrell didn’t join the Giants until June. Andres Torres didn’t become a regular until May. Cody Ross joined in August.

Some critics say that Huff’s numbers last year were an anomaly and that he’s due for a drop-off. But his numbers this spring say something different.

Sandoval looks primed for a big bounce-back season.

Players who were starters last year are back as reserves this year: DeRosa and Rowand.

And the rotation is stronger because the 2011 Giants have Madison Bumgarner in the mix instead of Todd Wellemeyer.

So, the 2011 Giants have the potential to be better from start to finish than the 2010 squad.

So what does that mean for wins and losses?

Well, MoreSplashHits mantra has been “Win series at home, play .500 ball on the road.” And if the Giants follow that model, they’ll finish 94-68. So that’s what we’ll go with.


And so the Brandon Belt era begins

Well, MoreSplashHits was an advocate for a more conservative approach with Brandon Belt. But now that the rookie is with the big club, we wish him all the luck for success.

But however you feel about the decision, you had to think the story about his reaction to the news was pretty cool.

Belt cried when manager Bruce Bochy told him that he made the team, and remained emotional even when talking to reporters afterwards.

“I tried not to be too big of a wuss in there, but it’s hard when you’ve been dreaming of this your whole life,” Belt said.

We fans tend to treat these well-compensated professional athletes with some distance and cynicism. But we forget that they are just people, and this genuine show of emotion is refreshing.

Almost as good was the exchange between Belt and teammate Aubrey Huff.

Huff: “Hey, Belt, you crying?”

Belt: “A little bit.”

Huff: “Why you crying? I’m the one who’s gotta play right field every day.”

Well, for a while, at least. Huff will start in right with Belt on first base at least until Cody Ross returns. Then we would expect to see Huff in left field.

That is, of course, unless Belt struggles in the week or so until Ross returns. Then the Giants could consider sending Belt to Fresno and returning Huff to first base. But the Giants seem to be committed to Belt for the long run.

But with every happy story on cutdown day, there’s sad news. On Wednesday, the sad news went to Travis Ishikawa. Ishikawa’s stock slipped this spring as Belt’s rose.

The Giants designated Ishikawa for assignment, meaning they have 10 days to trade or waive Ishikawa. If he clears waivers, he could be sent to Fresno, but Ishikawa could refuse that assignment.

Ishikawa took the news with class.

“These guys brought me into the system and brought me up,” Ishikawa said of the Giants. “I’ll always be grateful for that.  I wish them the best. If I’m not playing them, I’ll be rooting for them.”

And we’ll be rooting for you, Travis. Unless for some reason you ended up in Dodger Blue.

But let’s not focus on a thought so heinous. We’ll keep our minds on happy thoughts, like the promising future of Brandon Belt.

“It feels great  right now,” Belt said. “Pretty much the most exciting moment of life.”

Then there was a long pause.

“Besides my marriage.”

Oh! And the rookie makes another great defensive save!

Brian vs. Bruce: Battle of the Belt

The decision on Brandon Belt will go down to the final day.

It’s been hard trying to read between the lines or interpret lineups to see if the Giants might tip their hand on which way they will go with this.

And after a couple of days, MoreSplashHits is now convinced.

The Giants have no idea of what they’re going to do.
That’s not entirely true. Giants manager Bruce Bochy has an idea. GM Brian Sabean has an idea. It’s just that they may not have the same idea.

After reading comments from Bochy and Sabean, MoreSplashHits thinks the two men of the Giants braintrust are on opposites side of this decision.

We believe Bochy wants Belt on the roster. Sabean would rather send him to Fresno.

Bochy said before Monday’s series opener against the A’s that nothing Belt did against Oakland would impact the decision to keep him on the roster. So then why start Belt as a DH if you wanted to play Mark DeRosa at 1B on Tuesday?

MoreSplashHits interpretation: Bochy doesn’t need to see more of Belt. But he wants Sabean to see more of Belt.

Consider. Bochy was asked if starting a rookie in every game so close to opening day generally mean the rookie has made the team.

Bochy’s response: “Could be.”

Sabean countered by listing all the factors in this decision.

“Has (Belt) earned his way on the club?”

MoreSpalshHits’ take: Bochy answers yes; Sabean is not so sure. If you don’t agree, consider Sabean’s next question.

“If (Cody) Ross were on the club, would we be considering him?”

MoreSplashHits’ take: Sabean is saying that Bochy doesn’t like the alternatives. And with good reason. Aaron Rowand had a bad spring and has looked particularly ugly in recent games. Schierholtz has looked a little better, but not good enough to make Bochy forget Belt. Sabean believes that such a huge roster decision shouldn’t be made because of any offensive shortcomings that may only last a week or two.

“If we start the year with him, we’re pretty much committing to him the whole year.”

MoreSplashHits’ take: Sabean is saying this is a decision for the entire season, not just the first week or two. Also, it would mean sending Pat Burrell to the bench. And Burrell has looked good in recent games.

“If you keep him, you lose somebody else from the roster.”

MoreSpalshHits’ take: That’s Travis Ishikawa. Not a huge loss. Ishikawa’s stock has dropped as Belt has grown.

“When Ross comes back, you’ll lose somebody else.”

MoreSplashHits’ take: As we’ve been saying all spring, the Giants were going to lose Ishikawa or Schierholtz at the end of spring. But the idea of losing both doesn’t sit well with Sabean.

The fact that Bochy and Sabean may not agree on this issue is no great shock.

They disagree because they are both doing their jobs.

Bochy’s job is to take one game at a time and all that. He wants to put the best team on the field that he can. And that may very well be with Belt at first base.

Sabean’s job is to look at what’s best for the team in 2011, 2012, 2013 and beyond.

Putting Belt on the big club to start 2011 could get his arbitration clock started sooner. It could move his free-agency date up sooner. If all goes as the Giants hope, that could be very costly for the Giants in 2014 and 2017.

Sabean and Bochy were set to meet after Tuesday’s game and again Wednesday morning. An announcement on a final decision won’t come until after Wednesday’s afternoon game.

Wednesday’s lineup may provide clues, as we would expect that anyone who will be in Thursday’s starting lineup won’t be in Wednesday’s lineup.

But no matter what the final decision is, it will be the right one, and it will be the wrong one — no matter whom you ask.

Reading the signs from Bochy on final decisions

Giants hoping to get some answers about the opening-day lineup and roster on Monday just got more intrigue.

MoreSplashHits has been trying to read between the comments and actions of manager Bruce Bochy. But it’s not easy.

So here are the remaining questions and some potential answers.

WHO’S ON FIRST: Will it be Aubrey Huff? Will it be Brandon Belt?

Bochy said Monday’s lineup against the A’s would “be pretty close” to the opening day lineup, with one or two exceptions.

The lineup was this: CF Andres Torres, 2B Freddy Sanchez, RF Aubrey Huff, C Buster Posey, LF Pat Burrell, SS Miguel Tejada, 1B Brandon Belt, 3B Pablo Sandoval.

So then what are the “exceptions”? Well, one would assume one is Brandon Belt.

Putting Belt in the lineup raised plenty of eyebrows, fueling speculation that the Giants are still thinking about putting the rookie on the opening day lineup.

Bochy said Monday: “Now it’s up to us to decide which way we’re going to go.” That suggests the Giants haven’t decided.

But then Bochy also told Mike Krukow that nothing Belt did over these last days would impact the Giants decision. That indicates the Giants have already made decision.

Belt went 0 for 3 Monday with two weak groundouts and a strikeout.

Here’s what MoreSplashHits thinks.

The Giants have already decided to send Belt to Triple-A Fresno. They’re just waiting to see if anything weird happens Monday or Tuesday. Barring a late injury, Belt goes to Fresno.

The Giants gave him the start Monday as reward for a great spring and to give him a  taste of what awaits him if he goes to Fresno and continues to develop his skills.

Bochy said that Mark DeRosa would start at 1B on Tuesday. That’s a bad sign for Travis Ishikawa, who has already resigned himself to the assumption that his days with the Giants are numbered. By playing DeRosa at first, MoreSplashHits believes Bochy wanted the veteran to get comfortable there. Here’s how we see the scenario playing out.

Belt opens at Triple-A and Ishikawa make the big club to open the season. When Cody Ross is ready to come off the DL, Ishikawa will be traded or released. DeRosa then become the lead backup to Huff at first base, at least until Memorial Day when Belt could get the call.

SO THEN WHO’S IN RIGHT? If Huff is at first base, then who plays in right field until Ross returns.

MoreSplashHits sees the Giants using a platoon of Aaron Rowand (actually in center with Andres Torres in right) and Nate Schierholtz.

Now the book says you start the RH Rowand against lefties and the LH Schierholtz against righties.

One problem, however. Schierholtz apparently never read that book.

In his career, Schierholtz hits RH pitching .249 average/.295 on base/.373 slugging. Against lefties? .354/.390/.500.

Now, Schierholtz’ sample size against lefties is about one-quarter the size against righties, but those are significant splits to consider.

THE BULLPEN: Bochy said Monday that the chances are closer Brian Wilson won’t open the season with the club. Wilson remained down in Arizona as he tries to recover from a strained oblique.

He’ll throw off a mound Tuesday in one last chance to impress the Giants and convince them that he’s ready to open the season without pitching in a live game in two weeks.

If Wilson opens on the disabled list, he won’t be eligible to pitch for the Giants until April 6, when the Giants face the Padres in the sixth game of the regular season.

If Wilson’s on the DL, that leaves room for both Guillermo Mota and Dan Runzler in the bullpen. When Wilson is ready, one of those two pitchers are off the 25-man roster. Runzler has minor league options; Mota would have to be released.

Giants get two wins Saturday and head for home

Wins and losses in spring training don’t matter. But the Giants really needed to get one win before leaving Arizona.

Well, they got two. Both on Saturday.

The Giants left Arizona with a 20-12 record after posting wins over the Reds and Indians on Saturday.

The news wasn’t all good Saturday. Tim Lincecum, making his final spring start, got smacked around pretty good by the Reds.

“I just started missing spots and pitches got up, and I wasn’t getting ahead of many batters,” Lincecum said. “My arm feels ready. It would be nice to get to some games that actually matter.”

We guess that’s the good news. Lincecum is healthy and ready for the season. We just wish he went into the regular season on a stronger note.

Lincecum gave up six runs on 11 hits in five innings. The big hits were wind-blown home runs by Juan Francisco in the second and a three-run homer by ex-Giant Fred Lewis.

On the bright side, the Giants hitters who had largely struggled in the past week got going Saturday.

Andres Torres was 3 for 4 with two doubles and four RBI. Two of those hits were right-handed, which was huge. The oblique injury Torres suffered early in the spring limited his right-handed at-bats and he had struggled since then. So Saturday’s performance was a good sign.

Freddy Sanchez was 2 for 3 before leaving the game after being kicked in the head trying to break up a double play. He was said to be OK, which was good news.

Buster Posey walked three times. Pablo Sandoval was 1 for 3, so was Pat Burrell and Mark DeRosa. Miguel Tejada’s bat continued a strong finish to the spring, going 2 for 4 with two runs.

The Giants scored six runs in the sixth, five coming off Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman.

Also good news is four scoreless innings by the Giants bullpen. Four pitchers — Shane Loux, Guillermo Mota, Jeremy Affeldt and Steve Edlefsen combined to give up just one hit and one walk.

In the Saturday evening game, the Indians announcers were belly-aching about how the fans in Goodyear were being cheated because the Giants sent out a Triple-A lineup. Then that Triple-A lineup pounded out eight runs on 13 hits in an 8-5 win.

Mike Fontenot, Brandon Crawford and Eli Whiteside were all 2 for 5. Brandon Belt was 2 for 4, including a three-run home run. Nate Schierholtz was 2 for 4 and Roger Kieschnick was 2 for 3 with a home run.

On Sunday, the Giants capped their Arizona schedule with a 7-4 loss to the Royals. Jonathan Sanchez suffered his first spring loss. He gave up five runs, four earned, on six hits in 5 1/3 innings. The good news is that he only walked one, a four-pitch walk to Kila Kaaihue that would come back to bite Sanchez.

In the fourth, Sanchez gave up a double to Melky Cabrera, who scored on a single by Billy Butler. After the walk to Ka’aihue, Sanchez got Alex Gordon to pop out and Jeff Francoeur to strike out. Sanchez was one strike from ending the inning against Wilson Betemit, who then smacked a three-run homer for a four-run inning.

The Giants again ran out a lineup devoid of regular starters.

Expect the regular to be in the lineup Monday when the Giants return to San Francisco to open a three-game series against the A’s.

And the spring beatings go on

If Friday’s game against the Royals were three innings long, Friday would have been a good day for the Giants.

The Giants were knocking out hit after hit in building a 3-0 lead against Royals starter Vin Mazzaro. Madison Bumgarner was sailing, retiring nine of the first 10 batters he faced.

And then things went bad. Very bad.

The Royals tagged Bumgarner for four runs in the fourth and four more in the fifth. In the end, MadBum gave up eight earned runs on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings on the way to the Royals winning 15-3. Yikes.

“I think the biggest thing was that I was missing over the middle a lot more,” Bumgarner said. “Early on, I was hitting spots pretty well. I don’t know if it was fatigue, but obviously I’d rather have better results.”

So would we. But Bumgarner did get himself stretch out. He’s slated to pitch again on Wednesday against the A’s in the preseason finale, then make his 2011 regular season debut on April 5 at San Diego. If there was a positive note, it’s that Bumgarner didn’t walk anyone. So it was clear that he wasn’t trying to be too fine.

On the flip side, Santiago Casilla, a candidate to close in the event Brian Wilson is not ready to open the season, had a terrible outing. He gave up five runs in the sixth to the Royals, walking four in the process.

But the Giants play twice on Saturday, doubling their chances of snapping this skid of five losses and seven losses out of eight.

The Giants will roll out an A lineup against the Reds Saturday afternoon of: CF Torres, 2B Sanchez, RF Huff, C Posey, LF Burrell, 3B Sandoval, SS Tejada, 1B DeRosa, SP Lincecum.

It could be the opening day lineup. We could also see DeRosa in RF and Huff at 1B in the opener. The other option is Rowand in CF, Torres in RF and Huff at 1B. Remember, the Giants are facing lefty Clayton Kershaw in the opener.

The Giants will send the B lineup against the Indians Saturday night: 2B Fontenot, RF Schierholtz, 1B Belt, CF Rowand, LF Ishikawa, 3B Rohlinger, SS Crawford, C Whiteside, DH TBA, P Vogelsong.

Trying to stay positive

We’re going to try to stay positive in the post in the wake of the Giants’ 7-1 loss to the Indians on Thursday night.

We’re not going to discuss on the fact that the loss was the Giants’ fourth consecutive or that it was their sixth in the past seven games.

We’re not going to talk about on the fact that including Monday’s rained out 2 1/2 innings, the Giants have been outscored 20-1 over the last 20+ innings.

We’re not going to focus on how the Giants’ starting right fielder will open the season on the DL, and their closer may soon be joining him.

We’re not even going to think about how the Giants’ recent play left a frustrated Bruce Bochy to comment: “We’re not doing anything well now these last five games — pitching, hitting, baserunning (he didn’t mention fielding). We’ve got to pick it up. It’s been a great camp and we’re due to have a lull, but it’s too close to the season to make the mistakes we’re making.”

No, we’re going to ignore all those things as we try to accentuate the positive. So here we go.

Barry Zito. Zito has another solid outing. In fact, it was a quality start, pitching six innings and giving up two earned runs. He gave four runs total on seven hits. More importantly, he only gave up one walk and struck out five.

Miguel Tejada. Much has been made about the veteran’s shortstops struggles at the plate and in the field this spring. But hopefully, Thursday was the sign that Tejada is ready to ramp things up for the regular season. Tejada belted his first home run of the spring and only his second extra-base hit. He also made a nice barehanded play while charging an infield grounder, getting the out with an off-balance throw that ended with a somersault on the infield grass. “When I make a play like that, I think it tells me my legs are ready to go,” Tejada said.

Buster Posey. Posey went 1 for 2 with a walk. His spring average is .415. Watch out, Ted Williams!

Jeremy Affeldt. The left-handed reliever gave up just one hit in a scoreless inning of work. His spring ERA is 0.96.

Dan Runzler. The lefty is making his strong push to make the big club by setting the side down in order in the ninth. His spring ERA is 2.57.

Opening day. The season opener is less than a week away. Is there any better news than that?

No Cody for three weeks; time to consider options

No one needed to know the results of the MRI on Cody Ross’  calf to know the outfielder would not be opening the season with the Giants next week.

Ross, who injured his calf fielding a routine fly ball on Wednesday, showed up at Giants training camp Thursday in a walking boot and using a crutch. 

The Giants then announced that Ross had suffered a moderate strain of the right calf and he would be sidelined for three weeks.

Initial hopes were that Ross would need a couple of days to heal and be ready for the March 31 opener against the Dodgers.

And even the briefest of possible stints on the disabled list might still allow Ross to be in the lineup for the Giants’ home opener April 8 against the Cardinals.

But Thursday’s news now sets Ross’ earliest possible debut as April 15.

So now it’s time to consider options.

AARON ROWAND: The most plausible replacement option would be Rowand playing center field, with Andres Torres playing right. Rowand has played a little left field this spring, but playing right — particularly at AT&T Park — is a different story. The Giants likely would be better off with Torres in right. And with the Giants slated to face a pair of lefties — Clayton Kershaw and Ted Lilly — in the opening series in LA, the right-handed hitting Rowand seems a natural fit.

NATE SCHIERHOLTZ: Schierholtz has gone from being about a week away from being dealt away by the Giants to being almost a virtual lock to make the club. Given that, it’s doubtful that the left-handed hitting outfielder would be the first choice to replace Ross in the regular lineup, but he could get some starts against right-handed pitchers.

AUBREY HUFF/BRANDON BELT: A third option to consider is to move Aubrey Huff to right field and play Brandon Belt at first base. It had been considered to start Huff in left and Belt and first, sending Pat Burrell to the bench. But Ross’ injury may necessitate considering Huff for right field.

Hank Schulman of the SF Chronicle tweeted that the Belt option is being considered, but also added: “Everyone is pulling for Rowand.”

So it sounds as if the Giants are leaning toward the Rowand option early in the season. It may not be popular with Giants followers. But it’s the smart move.

Imagine if this injury had taken place the first week of the season and that the final roster cuts had already been made. Schierholtz may have been playing for someone else, and the Giants’ options would be seriously limited right.

Sabean also said that no more cuts will be made until the team returns to the Bay Area next week.

No doubt. I mean, heaven forbid, but what if someone else gets hurt.

Giant bummer of a day

Trying to find some good news out of spring training camp Wednesday for the San Francisco Giants would take some searching.

It was a bad day all around. Hopefully, in a couple of days, it won’t seem so bad. But we’ll see.

It started with Brian Wilson throwing in the bullpen and eventually being told to stop after a few minutes.

Where that puts Wilson’s status for opening day next week depends on who you ask.
Wilson gave the impression that Wednesday’s workout was just another step on the road to getting ready. But manager Bruce Bochy said the Giants would not rush to get Wilson ready for the opener, suggesting that he may open the season on the disabled list.

“We’re running short on time,” Bochy said. “This isn’t the time to rush Willie back.”

Then, when the game started against the Angels, Matt Cain got tagged for five first-inning runs in his second start back from elbow inflammation.

The bad inning started with a swinging bunt single by Erick Aybar. Howie Kendrick singled sharply up the middle. Then Bobby Abreu hit an 0-2 pitch over the right-field fence for a three-run homer. After Torii Hunter walked and stole second, Cain got Vernon Wells and Albert Callaspo to fly out (more on the second out later). Mark Trumbo followed with deep double to left-center to score Hunter. Trumbo then scored on a single by Jeff Mathis.

In the second and third innings, Cain surrendered no runs on two hits, no walks and two strikeouts.

The good news is that Cain said he felt good after the start, encouraged that he felt as strong at the end of his three innings as he did at the start. But he added he was “out of rhythm” which caused some pitches to leak out over the plate.

It was the third consecutive uneven start by Giants pitchers, following Madison Bumgarner’s rough start Sunday against the A’s, and Tim Lincecum’s outing Monday against the Rockies in a game that was eventually called for rain.

The end result Wednesday was an 8-0 loss to the Angels, the third consecutive loss for the Giants and the fourth in their last five games.

But the biggest loss Wednesday was that off right fielder Cody Ross. Ross suffered a strained calf on a fairly routine fly ball off the bat of Callaspo.

Ross limped off the field on his own power and went for an MRI. The Giants announced late Wednesday that Ross had sustained a strained calf. Just how long he’ll be sidelined likely won’t be know until Thursday.

It’s funny how quickly things can change. Last week, the season couldn’t start quickly enough for the Giants. And now, they wouldn’t mind a few more days to get ready.

But the season is rapidly approaching.

Barry Zito will take the mound as the Giants face the Indians Thursday night. Madison Bumgarner makes his final Cactus League start Friday night against the Royals.

Saturday is a split-squad day, with a day game against the Reds and a nightcap vs. the Indians. Lincecum is due to make his final spring start, but we’re not sure which game he will pitch. Jonathan Sanchez will cap the Arizona portion of the spring schedule against the Royals on Sunday.

On Monday, the Giants return home to open a three-game set against the A’s. Cain would pitch Monday at AT&T Park; Zito goes Tuesday in Oakland and Bumgarner would pitch Wednesday afternoon back at AT&T before the team heads to LA to open the 2011 season at Dodger Stadium on Thursday.

Six good reasons why Giants don’t need to strap on Belt

Bruce Bochy caused a stir Sunday when he started Brandon Belt at first base and Aubrey Huff in left field during a split-squad game against the Oakland A’s.

It was the first time this spring that Huff has played left field, leading many to speculate that the Giants are strongly considering having Belt open the season with the Giants and not the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies.

Bochy has said all spring that if Belt stays with the big club to open the season, he would need to play every day. And for that to happen, he would need to outperform Pat Burrell — the presumed starter in left field — this spring.

So let’s look at the numbers.

Belt — 14-for-52 (.269), 9 runs, 5 doubles, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 4 BB (.321 OBP).

Burrell — 10-for-39 (.256), 6 runs, 3 doubles, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 7 BB (.370 OBP).

brandon.jpgSo, from those numbers, Belt has not outperformed Burrell this spring. But the way Belt has hit the ball, even his outs have been loud this spring, giving the Giants a moment of pause before making their final roster decisions.

“I’ll see where we are this coming week. You may see it again,” Bochy said of the Belt/Huff defensive alignment.

While the thought of Belt in the everyday Giants lineup may be tantalizing to some Giants fans, there are several good reasons why he should open the season in Fresno.

THE GIANTS DON’T NEED HIM: Last year, the big cry to get Buster Posey up to the big club was fueled by the Giants’ offensive shortcomings. It was frustrating to watch Posey rake at Fresno while the Giants were losing games 2-1 or 1-0. But the lineup the Giants will send out to start 2011 is basically the same one that won the World Series last fall. So there’s no burning need to push Belt quicker than necessary.

ORGANIZATIONAL DEPTH: The Giants already will face a decision in the next week to unload Nate Schierholtz or Travis Ishikawa. Barring an injury, there won’t be room on the 25-man roster for both, and both players are out of minor-league options. However, if Belt makes the big club, the Giants would need to part with both Schierholtz and Ishikawa. Then what happens if someone goes on the DL? Who do the Giants call on from Fresno to fill that hole? What if Belt show he’s not ready to hit in the majors? Success during the spring doesn’t always translate into success in the regular season. If Belt gets sent back to Triple-A, who do the Giants call on to replace him if Ishikawa and Schierholtz are playing elsewhere?

PLAYING BELT MEANS SOMEONE ELSE SITS:  As it is, the Giants already have more outfielders than starting outfield spots. Pat Burrell looks to be the frontrunner to get most of the starts in left field. But we could easily see Aaron Rowand and Mark DeRosa get some outfield starts during the week. But if Belt is starting at first, then Huff starts in left. That buries Burrell on the bench. We know how Pat the Bat struggled as a DH in Tampa. How might we expect him to fare as a pinch-hitter or an occasional starter in left?

MIDSEASON SPARK: We can’t underscore the spark that Buster Posey brought to the Giants’ lineup when he got called up last season. If Belt opens in Fresno, he could provide a similar midseason spark if the Giants’ offense slumps in 2011.

RELIEVES PRESSURE FROM BELT: If Belt opens at Fresno and gets a midseason call, it would be a less stressful indoctrination to the majors than putting him in the opening day lineup and having to deal with the pressure that would go along with that. Belt appears to be the kind of player who could deal with those pressures. But if the Giants don’t need him, it would be better to put him in the best environment to succeed. And that may be very well be at Fresno to open the season.

THE ARBITRATION CLOCK: If Belt opens the season in the majors (and stays there all season), he would be eligible for arbitration after the 2013 season. At that time, the Giants would also be dealing with the arbitration cases of Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner. Added to that, Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson would be potential free agents after the 2013 season. Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez would be potential free agents after 2012. That would be a lot of money for the Giants to shell out, perhaps too much to keep all those players. However, if Belt remains in the minors to open the season, the Giants could potentially push his arbitration eligibility to after the 2014 season.