Giants Insider notebook: Belt makes most of start

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Giants Insider notebook: Belt makes most of start

Feb. 28, 2011
URBAN ARCHIVEGIANTS PAGE GIANTSVIDEOMychael UrbanCSNBayArea.com

MARYVALE, Ariz. -- Brandon Belt found his comfort zone Monday, and the results were pretty spectacular.His comfort zone is as a member of the starting lineup, it turns out. Giants manager Bruce Bochy gave him his first start of the spring against the host Brewers at Maryvale Park, and Belt took advantage of the opportunity by showing off the all-around game that's turned him into the unquestioned top prospect in the organization.He wasn't really tested defensively, but everyone's already well aware that he's exceptional at first base. He ran, hit and hit for power, though, going 3-for-5 with two doubles and four RBIs in the Giants' 10-9 victory. He also got to flash the speed and smarts that prompted general manager Brian Sabean to call him the best baserunner in the organization when he got a great jump off first base on a hit-and-run after his single and scored easily when fellow prospect Brad Eldred doubled into the left-field corner in the second inning."It makes a difference starting," Belt said. "It's a totally different routine."The routine of coming off the bench is unfamiliar to any stud player; when you're as good as Belt is, you start. Period. And Belt conceded that he "tried to do a little too much" in his previous spring cameos as a backup."Obviously I have a little bit more confidence now," he explained. "The past few games I was coming in late, getting an at-bat a game. I was probably pressing a little bit because I wanted to get that first hit. But today I could kind of relax a little bit more and just do my thing, since I knew I was going to have a couple of at-bats. Now I just have to be consistent with that."Belt, whom Bochy and Sabean have said will make the team only if he proved he's ready to play in the big leagues every day, is now 3-for-7 in Cactus League action.DeROSA STAYS HOT
Many established players aren't asked to make many road trips during spring training, as evidenced by the absence of Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell and even Buster Posey -- a grizzled vet's spirit in a second-year man's body -- on Monday.Thirteen-year veteran Mark DeRosa, however, has something to prove this spring after missing most of last season with a wrist injury that required a second surgery in about 10 months, and made the most of his trip to Maryvale by rapping out another pair of hits to raise his batting average to a ridiculous .750 (6-for-8) in three games.DeRosa started at second base again, but Freddy Sanchez is expected to make his 2011 debut on Tuesday, so DeRosa wanted to "steal some extra at-bats" before Sanchez's return.One of DeRosa's hits was a two-run homer of the top of the wall in left-center field, and it came on a 3-0 pitch."It was a fastball right down the middle," DeRosa said with a smile. "It was 3-0, so I looked over to the dugout and Boch kind of gave me the nod to swing away."Bochy said DeRosa still will see time at second base this spring to spell Sanchez, who is recovered from offseason surgery on his left shoulder, but he'll also play some at third base, first base and in the outfield."It's pretty crowded out there in the outfield right now," DeRosa said, "but I'm ready for anything Boch wants me to do. I just want to keep putting together good at-bats, playing good baseball and try to force my way into the lineup somehow."He had an ice pack on his wrist when he left the Maryvale clubhouse with carpool buddy Pablo Sandoval, who went 1-for-3 and is batting .400 (4-for-10) thus far, but DeRosa said the injury is a non-issue at this point, requiring only "superstitious maintenance."ISHI IN THE OUTFIELD
Travis Ishikawa, whose roster status is in question this spring as a result of Belt's presence, started in left field Monday and looked quite comfortable, easing back and to his right to run down a drive in the gap on the most difficult play he faced.He also went 2-for-3 with a double to lift his Cactus League batting average to .375 (3-for-8).Ishikawa's ability to handle outfield duty -- he's a first baseman by trade -- could increase his chances of making the team, as well as make him more appealing to other clubs should the Giants try to move him to alleviate their numbers crunch.Whatever happens, Ishikawa is enjoying himself for the moment. He said the last time he played in the outfield during a non-spring training game was in 2002."I love it," he said on his way out of the clubhouse. "I had a blast!"Nate Schierholtz, another potential victim of the numbers crunch, also had two hits and made the play of the game with a diving catch in right field.SUPPAN SHINES
Right-hander Jeff Suppan, vying for a spot on the pitching staff as a long reliever and emergency starter, isn't used to competing for a roster spot, but he sure looked up to the task against the Brewers, for whom he pitched from 2007 until a midseason trade to the Cardinals last season.In becoming the first Giants pitcher to go three innings, Suppan was virtually perfect, allowing his only baserunner on an error by shortstop Mike Fontenot. Immediately after the error, Suppan motioned to Fontenot in what appeared to be something of a pick-me-up, then promptly rolled a double play ball that Fontenot turned to complete.Suppan conceded that results actually do matter for him this year, as opposed to simply working on things to prepare for the season."I've never really done this before, but yeah, I have to think about that," he said. "I have to get guys out and work on things, so it's a little different."CATCHING UP WITH PRINCE
Giants starter Barry Zito had a rough day on the mound, walking five and allowing three hits while surrendering two runs over 1 23 innings in his 2011 debut, but his spirits were high enough after his outing to have some fun when asked about his verbal exchange with Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder in the first inning.Zito ended up walking Fielder, who appeared to be jawing at the lefty when he got to first base. Zito said it all started when he asked the umpire during the at-bat if a certain pitch had been called a ball or a strike, and Fielder jumped in to give his opinion."He was telling me that it was a ball," said Zito, who was then asked if he'd said anything to Fielder after the walk."Yeah, we chatted," he said, clearly making it up as he went. "Asked him how his offseason went. 'How's the family?' No new tattoos."INJURY UPDATES
Closer Brian Wilson, bothered by back stiffness early in camp, stayed behind for another throwing session, and pitching coach Dave Righetti stayed with him.Bochy said Wilson's session went well, but he was non-committal on Wilson making his Cactus League debut Wednesday.Also on the injury front, Andres Torres didn't play Monday because of soreness in his side. Bochy downplayed the injury but wouldn't say when Torres would return to game action.
GAMERS
Lefty reliever Javier Lopez gave up three runs on three hits in one inning of work. Righty Sergio Romo gave up one hit in his scoreless frame. Fontenot's only hit was a double. Marc Kroon, a hard-throwing reliever who spent the past several years starring in Japan, gave up two runs on three hits. Casey Daigle gave up a pair of runs on three hits, too, but he still picked up his second save of the spring.

A's spring training Day 8: Top pick AJ Puk attracts a crowd

A's spring training Day 8: Top pick AJ Puk attracts a crowd

MESA, Ariz. — The A’s are excited about 2016 top pick A.J. Puk, that much was apparent by the crowd the lefty attracted for his first “live” bullpen session Tuesday.

Among those watching closely were executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane, general manager David Forst, manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young.

Puk, who shaved about 20 pounds off his 6-foot-7 frame over the winter, looked strong against a group of hitters that included touted infield prospects Franklin Barreto and Yairo Munoz.

Melvin in particular liked the way Puk, the No. 6 overall pick out of the University of Florida, worked his curve ball into the mix. That’s a pitch he hadn’t used since high school, but he dusted it off back in the fall instructional league with some encouragement from minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson, and he’s working to sharpen it this spring as a complement to his fastball, slider and changeup.

“It’s just nice to have another pitch that’s slower than my other three pitches,” Puk said before Tuesday’s workout.

“It’s a four-pitch mix,” Melvin said. “He’s really starting to distinguish between this slider and curve ball. It was quite a crowd around his cage too. When you’re a young kid you tend to notice that, but I thought he responded really well.”

Puk, 21, is rooming with shortstop Richie Martin, a teammate at Florida whom the A’s made their top pick in 2015. They also lived near each other in Tampa this offseason and worked out together.

Puk comes off very quiet upon meeting him, but Martin warns against being fooled.

“It takes him a while, but once he feels comfortable he’ll break out. You’ll see.”

Melvin was impressed with Puk’s physical shape, saying he’s fielded his position well in pitchers’ fielding drills.

CAMP BATTLE Jesse Hahn will start the A’s Cactus League opener Saturday against the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs. It’ll be a chance for Hahn to make an early impression in his bid for the fifth starter spot.

“After the year he had (in 2016), it’s important for him this year. We have to show some faith in him,” Melvin said. “He performed well for us the year before. Last year wasn’t really consistent. We’ll try to get him out there and get him off to a good start.”

Kendall Graveman will take the ball in Sunday’s spring home opener against the Angels. Sonny Gray and Sean Manaea both will pitch Monday against the Giants and Jharel Cotton and Andrew Triggs will be among the group throwing Tuesday against the Indians.

PROSPECT WATCH: Sean Murphy, the A’s third-round pick in June, has shown a very strong throwing arm early in camp. Is it any wonder Melvin, an ex-catcher, was impressed?

“The kid can throw, it’s special,” Melvin said. “We really like him.”

NOTEWORTHY: Still no word on when reliever Santiago Casilla will arrive at camp from the Dominican Republic. Melvin said he isn’t concerned at this stage, and noted that Casilla has been working out at the team’s complex in the Dominican Republic and gave a motivational talk to the younger players there.

Cousins thanks Sacramento: 'Wouldn't trade it for anything'

Cousins thanks Sacramento: 'Wouldn't trade it for anything'

The Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday, prompting the All-Star big man to post a heartfelt message on his Instagram account.

Words can't even express how hard it is for me to have to leave the city of Sacramento and all of the amazing people that I have met while out here. I gave it my all for you and you gave it right back. The most amazing fans on the planet and I just want you to know that your support has meant everything to me. It's hard to believe that it was seven years ago that this young kid from Alabama showed up in Sacramento scared and not knowing a soul. As I look back upon my time here, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I have met so many amazing people, many of whom went out of their way to make me feel right at home from day one. Each and every one of you have played such an important part in my life and helping me become the person I am today. I don't just consider you all as fans, you all are my family...and a couple thousand miles aren't going to change a thing. Thank you Sacramento. 
#LoyaltyisLove #sactownkingforever

Cousins, 26, averaged 27.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.3 blocks and 34.4 minutes per game for the Kings this year.

Words can't even express how hard it is for me to have to leave the city of Sacramento and all of the amazing people that I have met while out here. I gave it my all for you and you gave it right back. The most amazing fans on the planet and I just want you to know that your support has meant everything to me. It's hard to believe that it was seven years ago that this young kid from Alabama showed up in Sacramento scared and not knowing a soul. As I look back upon my time here, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I have met so many amazing people, many of whom went out of their way to make me feel right at home from day one. Each and every one of you have played such an important part in my life and helping me become the person I am today. I don't just consider you all as fans, you all are my family...and a couple thousand miles aren't going to change a thing. Thank you Sacramento. #LoyaltyisLove

A post shared by DeMarcus Cousins (@boogiecousins) on