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.

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