Giants' Belt arrives in Fresno with 'clear head'


Giants' Belt arrives in Fresno with 'clear head'

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."

Fultz a perfect fit, but do Kings have assets required to trade up?

Fultz a perfect fit, but do Kings have assets required to trade up?

It’s lonely at the top, which is where Markelle Fultz sits on almost every 2017 NBA Draft board. The Brooklyn Nets should be set for the next decade with a big time scoring point guard. Instead, it’s the Boston Celtics who have no choice but to take Fultz with the No. 1 overall selection after a savvy trade that sent veterans Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Nets for a stack of picks and players back in 2013.

Fultz can do it all. He’s deadly from the outside, he can take you off the bounce and he has elite passing skills to boot. In a draft packed with star potential, specifically at the point guard position, the freshman from Washington stands out well above the rest.  

It would take a major shake up at the top for Fultz not to have his name called first on draft night, but there are plenty of very talented players sitting on the board behind him. Here is a deeper look at the potential top overall selection.

The Positives:
Fultz has tremendous size, length and athleticism for an NBA point guard. He measured in at 6-foot-5, 195-pounds with a 6-foot-10 wingspan and has a frame built to take on muscle. At just 19-years-old, he is already well defined physically and has plenty of room to grow and get stronger.

A crafty, high-end scorer, Fultz changes speed and direction well and has an advanced Euro-step for a young player. He averaged 23.2 points in 35.7 minutes a night for the Huskies while shooting 47.6 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from three. He can score from all three levels, finish well above the rim and play through contact.

In his lone season in college, Fultz showed that he is not only a legitimate scoring threat, but he is a willing passer and an unselfish teammate. While Lonzo Ball is considered the true pass first point guard of the draft, Fultz had a higher assist rate (35.5 to 31.5) and lower turnover rate (13.4 to 18.2) than the star guard from UCLA.

Fultz rebounds well for his position, averaging 5.7 rebounds per game at Washington. He also has potential as a defender, posting 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks, although he is a work in progress on that end of the floor.

Known as a high-character kid and tireless worker off the court, Fultz has the entire package. He can also play the lead or shooting guard spot, which will come in handy if the Celtics decide to pair him with All-Star Isaiah Thomas in the backcourt.

The Negatives:
9-16 is a concern. Great college players should be able to will their team to victory, even if the talent around them is suspect. Washington was certainly worse off without Fultz down the stretch, losing their last six while he sat with a knee injury.

Shot selection and sloppy ball handling was also an issue this season. In Fultz’ defense, he played with a group that lacked overall talent and those issues might eventually disappear when he’s added to a roster that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals.  

Fultz is a quality chase down defender, but he fell asleep on plenty of plays or didn’t show a consistent fight on the defensive end. Lack of focus allowed for plenty of back cuts. He also showed an inconsistent effort fighting through screens.

He’s a work in progress on the defensive end, like most young players coming into the league. Most of these issues can easily be coached out of him at the next level.

Fultz has an advanced feel and tons of room to expand his game. On the court, he resembles another former Husky in Brandon Roy. Fultz is much further along than Roy was at the same age, but possesses both the ability to score from anywhere on the court, as well as rebound and set up his teammates.  

It’s hard to imagine the Celtics passing on Fultz with the top overall selection, but if they do, teams will scramble trying to move up to select him. He would fit perfectly in the Kings starting backcourt alongside sophomore Buddy Hield, but Sacramento lacks the assets to move from five to one, Fultz’ likely landing spot.


Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale


SAN FRANCISCO -- The blisters on Johnny Cueto's middle and index fingers that limited his effectiveness in his last few starts haven't yet completely healed.

But the two-time All-Star is learning to pitch with them.

Cueto threw six strong innings and Brandon Crawford drove in three runs as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Atlanta Braves 7-1 on Sunday.

Cueto (5-4) bounced back from his roughest stretch as a Giant. He was 0-3 with a 4.33 ERA in his previous four starts.

"They're not bothering me like they were before," Cueto said through a translator. "I'm just getting used to it but I have to continue pitching until they get better."

The Giants won their third straight home series and posted their 11th victory in 18 games overall.

Crawford's two-run single highlighted a four-run second against R.A. Dickey (3-4) that made it 6-0.

Matt Kemp had three hits for Atlanta. But the Braves couldn't get much going against Cueto, who allowed one run on six hits and a walk. Cueto struck out eight, including five in a row at one point.

"He did what he needed to do to get us out," Kemp said. "We had chances to score runs and we didn't. I think in this series we really didn't do a good score of scoring runs."

Dickey allowed a season-high seven runs (six earned) on six hits and five walks in six innings.

"This can be a challenging place to throw because of the wind because it swirls so much," Dickey said.

Eduardo Nunez and Gorkys Hernandez each had two hits for the Giants. Joe Panik tripled to start the second-inning burst.

Cueto had two productive at-bats, bunting a runner to second in the second inning and driving in a run with a sacrifice fly in the third.

"It's always nice to have a lead and I thought Johnny was the sharpest he'd been this year," Giants catcher Buster Posey said. "Hopefully it's something he can build on. The changeup was working really well and his command of the fastball was really good."

Posey was 0 for 2 with two walks. He hasn't struck out in 55 consecutive plate appearances.

The Giants scored the game's first run when Nunez came around from third when a knuckleball glanced off catcher Kurt Suzuki glove in the bottom of the first. The play was ruled a passed ball. Asked if he had any empathy for the plight of his counterpart, Posey said "Yes, no question. It's not fun to hit, it doesn't look fun to catch, either."

Hernandez made a diving catch in the gap in left-center robbing Emilio Bonifacio of an extra-base hit with one out in the seventh inning.

Braves: 2B Brandon Phillips left in the fifth for pinch-hitter Jace Peterson. Phillips fouled a ball off his foot in his last at-bat in the third.

Giants: LHP Madison Bumgarner will start his throwing program on Friday, manager Bruce Bochy said. Bumgarner will start out playing catch and make five rehab starts. The 2014 World Series MVP suffered a separated left shoulder in a dirt biking accident. "The progress is happening," Bochy said. "I think he sees light at the end of the tunnel." ... Slumping rookie INF Christian Arroyo was out of the lineup on Sunday and his playing status appears uncertain. Arroyo, who turns 22 on Tuesday, is 0 for 19 in his last five games. "I'll talk to him, about what his situation is," Bochy said. "I'm definitely planning on giving him a couple of days" off.

Braves: RHP Julio Teheran will make his first career start against the Angels in Anaheim on Monday. He is 3-9 with a 5.63 ERA in 15 career interleague starts.

Giants: LHP Matt Moore will face the Nationals for the second time in his career. He was with Tampa Bay when he gave up two runs in five innings against Washington in 2012.