Giants Insider notebook: Belt makes most of start


Giants Insider notebook: Belt makes most of start

Feb. 28, 2011

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.
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.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 4-1 loss to Cubs

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 4-1 loss to Cubs


CHICAGO — The rain stayed away Tuesday after an initial delay of just over an hour. Once the first pitch was thrown, the Giants you watched over the previous week pulled a similar disappearing act. 

The lineup had no answer for Jon Lester, who threw a 99-pitch complete game and led the Cubs to a 4-1 win in two hours and five minutes. On the other side, the Cubs bashed three homers off Johnny Cueto, who still hasn’t found that 2016 groove. 

Here are five things to know from Wrigley, where tarp management is no longer a problem … 

--- Cueto gave up three homers for the first time since joining the Giants. It started with Kyle Schwarber’s 470-foot blast onto Sheffield that the Cubs said was the first to reach the street since 2014. The pitches Schwarber, Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo crushed had one thing in common: All were left right over the heart of the plate. 

--- Cueto became just the fourth Giants pitcher in the last 15 years to strike out at least eight but also give up three homers. Jeff Samardzija did it earlier this season against the Diamondbacks.

--- Addison Russell started a double play on Brandon Crawford in the second inning that gave Crawford a taste of what it’s like to hit a ball up the middle against the Giants. A year ago, Russell led NL shortstops in the SABR Defensive Index, which is a chunk of Gold Glove voting. This year, he leads the NL with nine Defensive Runs Saved; Crawford is at four. Personally I think Cincinnati’s Zack Cozart is the second best defensive shortstop in the NL, but Russell is certainly the guy who is the biggest threat to Crawford winning a third straight Gold Glove. 

--- The Lester Yips thing gets talked about quite a bit … but it should probably be talked about more. It’s simply incredible that one of the best pitchers in the world refuses to throw to first. Lester didn’t even move off the mound when Buster Posey hit a slow roller in the second, forcing his catcher to make a much tougher play. In the seventh Posey hit a similar ball and this time Lester had no choice; he fielded the ball and threw underhanded to first.

--- Josh Osich did not shave his mustache, he simply grew the rest out until he had a beard. It’s the smarter way to go. This way Osich still has the stache in his back pocket if the team needs some luck. He pitched a scoreless eighth, striking Schwarber out with a nasty slider.


Raiders OTA observations: Conley, rookies must earn their stripes

Raiders OTA observations: Conley, rookies must earn their stripes

ALAMEDA – Rookies have been immersed in the Raiders system most of this month, but still have a lot to learn before training camp begins this summer.

There’s significant work ahead this spring during OTAs and mid-June’s mandatory minicamp, and young players will do so from the second and third teams. Even the highly touted ones.

First-round draft pick Gareon Conley played slot cornerback with the second unit and outside cornerback on the third during Tuesday’s OTA open to the media. It’s a position the slick, speedy cover man will vacate posthaste, but the Raiders prefer rookies earn their stripes.

“All of our young guys are going to earn their way,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “We have a good football team. We’re going to let them earn their way. We’ll let them compete. We’re early in the competition, so we’ll just go through the offseason and continue to get (Conley) involved and get him reps. These guys will ascend and take their positions as they earn it. We’re really happy with the way he’s started.”

The Raiders didn’t feature a single rookie on their first units Tuesday. Second-round safety Obi Melifonwu, fourth-round offensive tackle David Sharpe and middle linebacker Marquel Lee were featured on the second unit.

Here are some other observations from Tuesday’s OTA sessions.

-- Del Rio said Marshall Newhouse had the inside track to be the team’s starting right tackle. The versatile veteran worked there with the first team, joining a front five otherwise intact from a season ago.

-- Second-year pro Connor Cook, who switched from No. 8 to No. 18 this offseason, ran the second offensive unit. E.J. Manuel worked with the third team.

-- Inside linebacker Ben Heeney worked on a side field with a trainer during Tuesday’s practice, as he continues to rehab from surgery to repair an ankle broken early last season. Jelani Jenkins also did side work after practicing on Monday.

Cory James and Tyrell Adams worked with the first unit at inside linebacker.

-- Veteran running back Marshawn Lynch was limited to individual drills for a second straight day as the Raiders ease him back into football activity.

-- Offensive lineman Austin Howard is working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, and only practice during individual drills.

-- Cornerback Sean Smith had offseason surgery, but was a full participant in Tuesday’s session.

-- Third-round defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes remains away from the Raiders complex due to an NFL rule preventing players from schools still in session to work with their teams. He won’t re-join the squad until training camp. Undrafted rookie Nicholas Morrow is in a similar spot, but will return next week.

-- Edge rusher Shilique Calhoun played last season at 250 pounds, but looks decidedly bigger now. He told the team website he’s up to 270 pounds.