Results tagged ‘ Brandon Belt ’

New York Mets 5, San Francisco Giants 4: God intervenes on behalf of Brandon Belt and other wackiness


Giants fandom has been squealing all season about how Brandon Belt must be starting at first base for the Giants, even as the young first baseman has been hitting below the Mendoza Line and Aubrey Huff was having success at the plate.

But now Belt is hitting above the Mendoza Line … and Huff is not.

Belt is now hitting .238. Huff is hitting .182 after a 1-for-16 skid that included an 0-for-4 day reminiscent of the 2011 Huff (two infield pop ups and two ground balls to the right-side of the infield).

And as if that were not enough to compell manager Bruce Bochy to start Belt on Sunday, the Lord intervened on Saturday in New York.

With two on and two out in the top of the ninth and the Giants down 4-2, Bochy sent Belt to the plate as a pinch hitter.

After falling behind in the count, Belt hit what appeared to be a game-ending pop up to shortstop.

But as shortstop Ruben Tejada drifted out into the outfield, it looked as if maybe Belt’s hit could drop between Tejada and center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

Then as Nieuwenhuis came charging in, the ball inexplicably fell behind the Mets center fielder. In the scorebook, it was a two-run, game-tying double for Belt.

If that is not divine intervention, I don’t know what is.

But in the end, it didn’t matter much because the wackiness didn’t end there.

Bochy’s penchant for making move-upon-move — a strategy that paid off with a victory Friday night — ending up biting the Giants manager on Saturday.

First, in the top of the ninth, Bochy had his backup catcher, Hector Sanchez, hit for his shortstop Brandon Crawford to avoid having the lefty Crawford hit against the lefty Tim Byrdak. It was a risky move considering that the Giants’ lone backup infielder, Ryan Theriot, was still not available because of illness.

And the move didn’t pay off when Sanchez struck out.

Then Bochy had Brett Pill pinch-hit for the pitchers’ spot. Now, it’s worth noting that Pill actually had some experience playing second base last year at Triple-A Fresno and took some grounders at second prior to Saturday’s game.

But after Pill was announced as the hitter, the Mets brought in right-hander Jon Rauch. So Bochy then had Belt hit for Pill, taking Pill out of the game.

That move worked — because God decreed it to be so.

But in the bottom of the inning, it forced Bochy into a most unusal defensive alignment. Emmanuel Burriss went to shortstop, Belt went for first and Aubrey Huff went to second.

Yes, we said Aubrey Huff at second base.

Now, in 1,234 games in 13 major-league seasons, how many times, prior to Saturday, had Huff played second base?


Even in 339 minor-league games, he had never played second.

And it showed.

After a leadoff single, a sacrifice bunt and a walk put runners on first and second with one out, Mike Baxter hit, in normal defensive alignments, what should have been a custom-made double-play ball to shortstop. But in this defensive alignment, it should have at least produced a force out at second.

One problem, though. When Baxter hit the ball directly at Burriss at short, Huff broke toward first base. He actually broke toward first base.

By the time Huff realized he was playing SECOND BASE, Burriss had to adjust quickly and throw to first. But the throw to first was late and Baxter was safe (even though replays indicated he was out).

Now, we have the bases loaded and one out.

Nieuwenhuis followed by hitting a grounder to Belt, who threw to home to force out Scott Hairston.

And this is where Buster Posey, who made two great defensive plays to bail out the Giants in the eighth, made a bad decision.

Posey tried to throw back to Belt at first to double up the fast Nieuwenhuis. When Scott Hairston’s slide home clipped Posey in the foot (another questionable call by the umpire to allow that), Posey’s throw sailed into right field and the Mets won.


Tim Lincecum hopes to get things figure out when he faces Dillon Gee in 10:10 a.m. Sunday.

Buster Posey gets shingles, Tim Lincecum gets a haircut, Brandon Belt gets the shaft

Wednesday started out as just as any other mid-week day after a day off in Denver that followed a Barry Zito shutout.

Then things got REALLY wacky.

First came the announced lineup for Wednesday’s game at Colorado that did not include Brandon Belt.

This came just two days after manager Bruce Bochy said, when talking about Belt’s day off on Monday: “I think we’re getting a little caught up here. There’s no panic (with Belt).” And then he said Belt would be back out there on Wednesday.

Then Wednesday’s come, and no Belt. What?

We’re guessing Bochy wanted to get Nate Schierholtz his first start on Wednesday. Then after doing that, he looked at the lineup that would have had a struggling Belt No. 5 followed by Schierholtz No. 6, then Brandon Crawford and Emmanuel Burriss, and he didn’t like it. So Aubrey Huff, who had a nice game Monday, gets the start.

OK, it’s not unreasonable. But with the lefty Jamie Moyer starting Thursday, we would expect Brett Pill to start at first base. That means no Belt starting the entire Rockies series, which is a lovely park for a struggling hitter to find his stroke.

Then, Lincecum showed up to the park with four inches of hair lopped off, saying that he “just wanted a haircut.”

But that story would take a backseat to the next nugget: Buster Posey was out of the lineup with shingles.

Shingles is triggered by the same virus that causes chicken pox, leading to painful blisters. Posey has blisters on his arm, left shoulder and back. Posey said he had chicken pox as a young child, but the virus stays dormant in the box and can be flared by a cold, lack of sleep or stress.

So beware Ozzie Guillen.

Posey said he started to feel worn down toward the end of spring training and the blisters began to emerge Sunday.

“You feel zapped,” he told CSNBayArea’s Andew Baggarly. “I just feel worn down still. I’m planning on being in there (Thursday), though.”

Posey has been told the condition generally clears in four or five days, but can last as long as three weeks.

Given that, we wouldn’t be surprised if Posey plays first base on Thursday, with Sanchez drawing another start behind the plate.

Still two hours until game time, and no word if Brian Wilson is clean-shaven or not.

Weekly Farm Report 5/2

Things have been so discouraging with the big club that we haven’t been very inspired to throw up some more posts recently.

Then we thought that maybe there’s some encouraging news down on the Farm. So here it is.

Brandon Belt, 1b-of, Fresno (AAA): Ok, so we know Belt can hit minor-league pitching. In his first eight games since being sent down to Triple-A, Belt is hitting .458 with two home runs and 8 RBI. He has eight walks and seven strikeouts. His OBP is .594 and he’s slugging .833 for an OPS of 1.427. Belt has been playing more OF than 1B since heading to Fresno, partly to prepare him to play there when he returns to the bigs and partly to keep Brett Pill in the Fresno lineup.

Brett Pill, 1b, Fresno (AAA): Pill continues to hit at Fresno, batting .360 with 4 HRs and 23 RBI. His OPS is .950.

Thomas Neal, of, Fresno (AAA): Neal continues to play well after a slow start with a foot injury. He’s hitting .333 through 12 games. But 10 of his 13 hits are singles, he’s only drawn two walks and stolen just one base.

Connor Gillaspie, 3B, Fresno (AAA):
The next option in the farm system at 3B while Pablo Sandoval is on the shelf, Gillaspie has shown more discipline at the plate. He’s hitting .273 over the past 10 games with an OBP of .400. For the season, he’s hitting .261 with 2 HRs and 17 RBI with an OBP of .356.

Steve Edlefsen, P, Fresno (AAA): The Fresno bullpen has been good, led by Edlefsen, who has a 1.29 ERA in 14 innings of relief. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is 10/1. That’s good because of the five starting pitchers still at Fresno, four have ERAs over 5.00.

Charlie Culberson, 2b, Richmond (AA): Culberson remains the bright spot on a roster in which only two players have batting averages above .240. Culberson is hitting .292 with 1 HR and 9 RBI. He’s scored 10 runs in 23 games. He’s still striking out too much, 9 times in past 10 games. But he’s starting to works some walks (5 in past 10).

Eric Surkamp, p, Richmond (AA): We’re guessin the league Richmond plays in is a pitchers’ league. Because the Flying Squirrels have three starting pitchers with ERAs under 2.22. Surkamp is 0-2 despite a 2.21 ERA. He’s struck out 31 batters in 20 1/3 innings of work. Justin Fitzgerald is 2-0 with 1.45 ERA, but he’s walked 12 for a team-high WHIP of 1.66.

Gary Brown, of, San Jose (A): Brown continues to play well with .333 average through 23 games. He’s 17 of 23 in stolen base attempts, and has scored a team-high 20 runs. He’s also worked 10 walks for an OBP of .418.

Chris Dominguez, 3b, San Jose (A): Dominguez remains San Jose’s big power pat with 6 HRs and 18 RBI in 24 games. But he’s also struck out a staggering 29 times.

Zach Wheeler, p, San Jose (A): Wheeler is 2-0 with 3.38 ERA and his strikeout-to-walk ration is 27/6 in 21 1/3 innings.

Kelvin Marte, p, San Jose (A): Marte is 3-1 with 0.94 ERA in 28 2/3 innings.

Happy Birthday, Brandon Belt … sort of

So what did the San Francisco Giants give Brandon Belt for his 23rd birthday on Wednesday?

An all-expense-paid trip to Fresno. Go crazy, Brandon!

“Yeah, a pretty good birthday present,” Belt told reporters after learning of his demotion to Triple-A Fresno.

OK, not the greatest news to learn on your birthday, but it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to the first baseman.

First of all, he was hitting .192 with 13 strikeouts in 60 plate appearances. Projected over a full season, that would be almost 100 whiffs. Not exactly what the Giants had in mind.

Big-league pitchers quickly found the hole in Belt’s spring and exploited it. Meanwhile, Belt struggled to close that hole, developing a hitch in his swing.

Also, Bruce Bochy had said many times that he wanted to add offense to the lineup with Cody Ross on the DL. And that played a role in Belt opening the season in the majors.

The implication is that if Ross were healthy, Belt may have opened in Fresno. So now that Ross is back, it comes as no surprise that Belt is headed down.

Some bloggers believe the Giants are doing Belt wrong by sending him down, contending that they should have either committed to him from the get-go or sent him to Fresno to start the year.

MoreSplashHits does not believe a demotion after three weeks in the majors will have any ill effect on Belt’s development. We believe it gives Belt a clearer picture on what he needs to do to be major-league ready.

This is the best move for the Giants. Belt gets to work on his swing in the minors, rather than scuffling in the majors at the expense of potential wins for the Giants.

Some feel the Giants didn’t do right by Belt. But they did right by the Giants. And that’s just fine with MoreSplashHits.

Oh yeah, and Brandon, if it makes you feel any better, MoreSplashHits spend his 22nd birthday deathly ill with food poisoning. The next day, I sat down to watch Game 3 for the 1989 World Series — which wasn’t played because of an earthquake.

So it could be worse.

Big Belt and a bunch of bobbles

MoreSplashHits is still trying to figure out what’s worse.

The fact the Giants still don’t have their first win of the 2011 season.

That both losses to open the season were to the hated Dodgers.

That they’ve wasted two solid pitching effort.

That the Giants aren’t hitting well.

That despite all that, the Giants still could have won if they had simply played with more focus on defense.

For the second straight night, the Giants basically gave a victory to the Dodgers, losing 4-3 Friday night.

If there’s good news, it was the performance of rookie Brandon Belt. Belt hammered a 2-0 pitch from Chad Billingsley in the fourth over the center-field fence for his first career home run, a three-run shot.

But the rest of the night, the Giants failed to deliver a clutch hit. Buster Posey struck out in the seventh with a bases loaded.

Here’s an interesting stat to note. Dating back to the World Series, 12 of the last 13 runs the Giants have scored have come via the home run.

There was Belt’s 3-run blast Friday, Pat Burrell’s solo shot Thursday, Edgar Renteria’s three-run homer in Game 5 of the World Series, Buster Posey’s solo shot and Aubrey Huff’s two-run shot in Game 4 of the Series and solo home runs by Cody Ross and Andres Torres in Game 3.

The only non-homer produced run in that stretch was an RBI double by Torres in Game 4.

But unlike in the Fall Classic, the Giants aren’t doing the little things to win so far in 2011.

On Friday night, the Giants were up 3-1 in the sixth when Matt Kemp led off with a single. Kemp then went from first to third on a slow chopper by Marcus Thames.

Sandoval charged the ball and never looked over to Kemp before throwing Thames out at first. Kemp never stopped to go from first to third.

The mental lapse came back to get the Giants when Kemp scored on a sacrifice fly by James Loney.

After Rod Barajas singled to left, Aaron Miles rolled a swinging bunt to Sandoval at third. Sandoval charged, bare-handed the ball, then threw wide to first, allowing Barajas to advance to third and Miles go to second.

Instead of eating the ball, as he had no chance of getting Miles, Sandoval compounded the situation by throwing the ball away.

But it looked as if the Giants might escape the game when Hector Gimenez hit a weak bouncer back to Jonathan Sanchez. But the lefty took his eye off the ball, and dropped it, allowing Barajas to score the tying run.

Guillermo Mota relieved Sanchez and gave up a single to Rafael Furcal, scoring Miles with the go-ahead run.

So, some dumb luck (three balls that didn’t leave the infield grass), bad decisions and bad fielding left the Giants 0-2.

The Giants turn to Matt Cain to help stop the slide on Saturday afternoon. Let’s hope the Giants play some better defense behind the right-hander.

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.

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.

Countdown to Spring Training: No. 6, Brandon Belt

belt.jpgIf there’s one player that Giants fans will be watching this spring, it’s Brandon Belt.

The left-handed hitting first baseman/outfielder made quite a splash in his rookie season of professional baseball.

After being drafted in the fifth round in the 2009 Amateur Draft, Belt signed so late that he didn’t make his pro debut until 2010 for high Class A San Jose.

In 77 games in San Jose, Belt his .383 with a .492 OBP and a .628 slugging percentage. His numbers only dipped slightly when he made the move to Double-A Richmond — .337-.413-.623 in 46 games.

He completed the season at Triple-A, where his averaged dipped to .229 in just 61 at-bats in 13 games — a very small sample. However, his OBP (.393) and slugging (.563) remained very good. Belt also hit .372 in 22 games in the Arizona Fall League.

The Giants have said they will give Belt every chance of winning a spot on the 2011 opening day roster. They have also said Belt will only break camp with the big club in 2011 if he is an everyday player.

So the reasons to allow Belt to open the season with the Giants are clear: if he shows he’s ready to play, then he should play. And the Giants clearly could use whatever offense they can get. Also, his ability to play first base or left field adds to his allure. Plus, the Giants could use another left-handed bat in the lineup, with only Aubrey Huff and switch-hitters Andres Torres and Pablo Sandoval there right now.

But there are other reasons for the Giants to wait on Belt, and let him start the season at Fresno.

No reason to rush: The Giants won a World Series title with basically the same lineup that they’ll roll out in 2011. So there’s no reason to rush Belt to the majors for added offense. As it is, the Giants will have some key roster decisions to make. If Belt makes the opening day roster, it likely comes as the expense of 1B Travis Ishikawa. Belt’s left-hand bat and above-average glove would make Ishikawa expendable. And Ishikawa is out of options, meaning he’d have to be cut or traded.

Don’t want to get it wrong: The Giants don’t want to break camp with the big club, only to show that he’s not quite ready for the bigs. If he has to be sent down in May, who do the Giants have in Fresno to call up, if Nate Schierholtz and Ishikawa have been dealt away. By waiting, the Giants could bring Belt up when another player heads to the DL. This would give the Giants the chance to see how Belt handles big-league pitching without sacrificing any organization depth.

Midseason spark: It can’t be understated how much the addition of Buster Posey to the lineup last May provided a spark to the Giants when they needed it. Belt could be that spark in 2011.

Arbitration clock: If Belt opens the season in the majors — and stays there — his arbitration clock starts ticking, putting him on track to be arbitration eligible after the 2013 season. The Giants will have a payroll of $120 million for 2011. If you count players under contract or arbitration eligible, the payroll may already sit at $100 million for 2012. And that doesn’t count any free agent deals needed to fill potential holes at 2B, SS, outfield or bullpen. Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson will be eligible for free agency after the 2013 season, and Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner will be eligible for arbitration. Do the Giants really want to add Brandon Belt to that list? By waiting until late May or June to call up Belt, they can push that arbitration date back until after 2014.