Giants' Belt arrives in Fresno with 'clear head'

Giants' Belt arrives in Fresno with 'clear head'
April 25, 2011, 8:39 pm
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April 25, 2011

When a player is sent down from the big leagues, he has 72 hours to report to his new minor-league team.High-profile prospect Brandon Belt, bounced from the bigs before the Giants took on the host Rockies on Wednesday in Colorado, took full advantage of the rule and is glad that he did."I think it helped taking a few days off so I could clear my head," Belt told Monday morning from Fresno via cell phone.Told by San Francisco skipper Bruce Bochy on his 23rd birthday that his .192 batting average through 17 games had earned him a trip to Triple-A Fresno, Belt decided slow down the whirlwind that has been his life.
Since tearing through the Giants' system last season, he was sent to the prestigious Arizona Fall League and helped the Scottsdale Scorpion win the AFL championship, got married during the offseason, reported to big-league camp as the Next Best Thing, and displaced incumbent first baseman Aubrey Huff as the starter for Opening Day against the Dodgers.Just as quickly, he fell into a slump that prompted the demotion. It was time to take a step back and breathe.So instead of rushing to Tucson, Ariz., where the Fresno Grizzlies were wrapping up a road trip with games Thursday and Friday, Belt took a pass and took his time. After spending Thursday getting settled in for what he hopes is a short-term stay in the San Joaquin Valley, he made his way over to the Grizzlies' Chukchansi Park for a low-key round of batting practice as Fresno Pacific infield coach Matt Souza and Central High skipper Brad Fontes took turns firing away at the phenom.Belt's goals? "Start from the basics and getting my swing right," he said. So far, so good. In his 2011 debut for Fresno, Belt on Saturday started in left field, batted in the cleanup spot and crushed a two-out, two-run homer in his first at-bat.The pitch he hit? Pretty much the same one that sent him to Fresno in the first place. It was an inside fastball thrown by Micah Owings, who has more than 60 big-league starts on his resume."You don't make it to the big leagues as fast as he did if you can't hit the inside fastball," Grizzlies manager Steve Decker told the Fresno Bee. "He can hit it. He's just got to know when to look for it."Belt, already known for his tremendous plate discipline, had worked the count full before his home run off Owings, and he walked later in the game.
On Sunday, he was moved up to the No. 3 spot in the order and dropped an RBI double just inside the right-field line in the first inning. He added an RBI single later and entered Monday's home game against the Reno Aces having gone 3-for-7 with four RBIs since that birthday bummer with Bochy."I'm doing all right," Belt said.In addition to the adjustments that Belt is trying to make at the plate, he's adjusting back to life in the outfield. Decker said that Belt, who saw all of his playing time with the Giants at first base while Huff endured some early struggles in the outfield, said Belt will play only a game or two a week at first base while fellow prospect Brett Pill, who was batting .385 through Sunday, and Travis Ishikawa, who hit a grand slam Sunday to help boost his average to .236, share the rest of the time at the position.That's fine with Belt, who mostly played first base and pitched at the University of Texas but spent plenty of time in the outfield before matriculating to Austin, Tex. Once he gets used to reading balls off the bat again, he figures, it'll be like riding a bike."I don't feel too bad out there," Belt said. "Obviously there's a few kinks I need to sort out, but so far it's going pretty well. The last time I played out there regularly was in high school."