Belt makes a statement in spring debut

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Belt makes a statement in spring debut

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Manager Bruce Bochy cant stroll througha mall without being approached by Giants fans. And all of them seem to bemembers of the Brandon Belt fan club.
After the hellos and platitudes, they often sneak in a Hey,play the kid, will ya?"So when Beltwent 3 for 4 with a home run while serving as the designated hitter in Saturdays Cactus League opener, Bochycouldnt resist the urge to have a little fun.Boy, Belts been locked in, hasnt he? the manager said, grinning.All kidding aside, Bochy acknowledges that Belt presents the Giants toughest callof the spring. Their roster, already stuffed with lefty bats, actually fitstogether easier if he starts the season in Triple-A Fresno. It means AubreyHuff would play first base instead of left field, where hed be a questionmark.

But if Belt convinces the front office and coaching staffthat he is ready to be an impact performer against major league pitching,theyll have to pay their respects to that. Like all those Giants fans he meets, Bochy wants to put his best team on the field, too.
Right now, Bochy cant say whether the Giants will be abetter team on opening day with Belt or without him. Thats what they hope tofind out in the next four weeks.Hes a good player. We know that, Bochy said. Well betalking about Brandon Belt quite a bit, what he can bring. Hes a guy who willprobably be decided in the last part of the spring.Belt had three of the Giants nine hits in a 9-6 loss toArizona. He tomahawked a single in the first inning off Arizonas JoshCollmenter. He singled to right in the sixth against Ryan Budde. Then hepounded his homer over the right field fence off Yonata Ortega in the ninth.(It wouldve been off the bricks at AT&T Park, though.)Bochy liked the fact that Belt was aggressive early in thecount. He took a healthy cut at the first pitch he saw from Collmenter,swinging through it.Hes swinging well, Bochy said. Last spring, he swung thebat well. He came in ready to go.We want these guys to let it go when they get a pitch tohit, but lay off the tough pitches, too. The thing about Brandon, he knows whathe needs to work on. But when he gets a good pitch, hey, let it go.Thats what Belt tried to do in the Dominican winter leagueand thats what he plans to carry over.Id rather be overaggressive and have to back off than bepassive and have to dial it up, he said. Once you figure that stuff out, itdoesnt leave you. For the most part, you remember it.Belt remembers everything coming far too easily in 2010,when he hit .352 with a 1.075 OPS while zooming from Single-A San Jose toDouble-A Richmond to Triple-A Fresno.But he made a fairly stunning admission about hisseason-long hot streak that burst him into the elite prospects rankings.In 2010, even when I was hitting well, I didnt have anyidea what I was doing, he said. I was just hitting.He never had to dig his way out of a slump. So when thathappened at various junctures in the big leagues last season, he didnt havethe experience to know what to do.I dont think I took the time to figure out what was goingon, he said. It was all so fast. I didnt take the time to regroup.He said he did some of that thinking in the 10 days betweenthe end of last season and his first game for Escogido in the Dominican.Asked if he would rather be a bench player in the bigleagues or a starter at Triple-A, Belt made another surprising comment. He saidhed rather play.Thats a tough decision, he said. We all want to be in thebig leagues. But my main goal is to play every day. If I have to start inFresno, thats what Ill do. Then my goal will be to produce enough to get backup here.

Regulars in lineup continue to scuffle, Giants end up with series split

Regulars in lineup continue to scuffle, Giants end up with series split

SAN FRANCISCO — The momentum generated by Christian Arroyo and Michael Morse late Wednesday night lasted just a few hours. By the end of this four-game series, the Giants were left with a harsh reality: Even with two injections of new blood, they are not hitting. 

Arroyo drove in another run Thursday, but that was it for a lineup that couldn’t support Matt Moore’s effort. The bullpen, which had kept Bruce Bochy’s guys in close games all series, finally broke in the 10th. The Dodgers walked away with a 5-1 win and a split of a series that was rather uninspiring for both sides. 

After scoring 10 runs on the last road trip, the Giants scored just eight during the four games against the Dodgers. Three of those RBI came from Arroyo, called up Monday. A fourth came from Morse, called up Wednesday.

“We’ve got to get this offense going,” Bochy said. “It’s a better offense than what we’re doing right now. You need to find a way to put a few runs on the board. We had our chances, we just couldn’t find ways to get the big hit.”

With Denard Span out for at least another week, Bochy moved Hunter Pence to the top of the lineup. His temporary No. 3 hitter against lefties, Eduardo Nuñez, has one hit in his last 20 at-bats. Buster Posey, the cleanup hitter, is batting .357, but he has driven in just three runs this month. With two on and one out in the eighth, he bounced into a double play. The production closer to the bottom of the order has been nonexistent, leading to constant shuffling that has moved Nuñez and Belt to left at times. Bochy said the staff will continue to search of a lineup that works. 

“You talk about it and do thing to adjust, and it will get better, but right now we’ve got some guys who aren’t swinging the bat well, to be honest,” he said. “You look at the order and we don’t have a lot of guys swinging well.”

The list does not include Arroyo, the rookie who will eventually have to deal with adjustments from pitchers. It doesn’t appear that’ll be a problem. Arroyo has been making adjustments from at-bat to at-bat. He did so against Sergio Romo for his first career homer and said he learned about the depth of Julio Urias’ curveball during their first two battles Thursday. In the sixth, the 21-year-old Arroyo drove in the game-tying run against the 20-year-old Urias. The lefty had walked Posey to face Arroyo, who singled up the middle. 

“He handles himself so well,” Bochy said. “They walked Buster and he smokes the ball. This kid has shown he’s not in awe. The upper deck, the bright lights, he comes to play.”

Arroyo’s effort briefly backed Moore, who was sharp in seven innings. Moore struck out eight, six of them looking, but he didn’t get much help and the bullpen fell apart in the 10th with a series of walks.

Bochy challenged his starters on Saturday at Coors Field and they responded with a strong series back home. The bullpen was tested during the first week but — Thursday’s result aside — it has settled down. The Giants are not as worried about their pitching as they were as they flew back from Denver. They know, however, that this team is going nowhere if two runs per game continues to be the nightly output. 

“We’ll tweak it again,” Bochy said of his lineup. “We'll see if we can get this thing right.”

Instant Replay: Moore tosses gem, but Giants lose to Dodgers in extras

Instant Replay: Moore tosses gem, but Giants lose to Dodgers in extras

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — Quietly over the past couple of weeks, Bruce Bochy’s bullpen had started to settle. Bochy praised the group before Thursday’s game, noting that roles were being defined by pitchers who entered the series finale with the Dodgers with a 0.94 collective ERA this season. That changed in the 10th inning Thursday.

Three relievers combined to give up four runs on four walks and three singles. The implosion ended with a 5-1 loss to the Dodgers and a split of this four-game series. 

For most of the game, this was a day when youth shined. Corey Seager celebrated his 23rd birthday with a solo homer in the first on a two-strike pitch from Matt Moore that caught the heart of the plate. The Giants will be dealing with Seager for years, and if all goes according to plan, there will be years of Julio Urias vs. Christian Arroyo battles, too. 

The 21-year-old third baseman won the first matchup, lining a single to center. Arroyo flew out in his second at-bat against the 20-year-old Urias, but they faced off a third time in a big spot. Brandon Belt drew a one-out walk in the sixth and went to third when a pickoff throw skipped down the line. After an intentional walk of Buster Posey, Arroyo lined another one back up the middle. Urias stuck his glove up but it ticked off and into center for a game-tying single. 

Arroyo ended the young lefty’s day. Moore was done after seven sparkling innings. He struck out eight, six of them looking. 

The game went to extras, and Cory Gearrin walked pinch-hitter Adrian Gonzalez to lead off the 10th. Chase Utley was called up to bunt but he couldn’t get it down. Instead, he hit an infield single off Steven Okert that stayed true to the third-base line. After a walk of Yasmani Grandal, the third straight pinch-hitter, Andrew Toles lined a single to center to give the Dodgers a lead and the wheels soon came off. 

Utley alertly tagged up and scored on a pop-up to foul territory. Justin Turner’s single extended the lead to three and Hunter Strickland’s four-pitch walk of Chris Taylor pushed another across. 

Starting pitching report: Moore gave up 19 hits and 11 earned runs in his two previous starts, but the Dodgers had just two hits, the Seager homer and a Chris Taylor single. Taylor reached third with one out, but Moore got Scott Van Slyke and Cody Bellinger to go down looking. 

Bullpen report: Mark Melancon came on in a non-save situation for a second straight day and pitched a scoreless ninth. 

At the plate: Buster Posey’s hitting streak ended at 12 games. He twice bounced into double plays.

In the field: Posey chased a high pop-up down the right field line in the fourth, but he was going to come up short. Kelby Tomlinson came out of nowhere with the helping hand, making a running catch near the visiting bullpen. Posey smiled and shook his head as Tomlinson whipped the ball back to the infield. 

Attendance: The Giants said they sold out a 500th consecutive game.

Up next: The Giants have a three-city road trip coming up, so it’s time to take advantage of a weekend at home against the Padres. Jeff Samardzija and Luis Perdomo get the opener.