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.

Vin Scully on Dodgers Opening Day: ‘I’ll probably have things to do’

Vin Scully on Dodgers Opening Day: ‘I’ll probably have things to do’

WASHINGTON -- On Monday, the Dodgers will play their first opening day since 1950 without Vin Scully calling their games. He won't be in the stands. He won't make a point of watching on TV, either.

"It's a day game. I'll probably have things to do," the famed 89-year-old announcer told The Associated Press from his home in Hidden Hills, California. "I might catch a piece of it."

Not that Scully has any regrets since retiring after last season. He says he's grateful for every minute he spent with the Dodgers, the franchise he joined 67 years ago in Brooklyn and followed to Los Angeles eight years later. He feels blessed to have worked as long as he did covering the game he fell in love with as a boy.

But he's learned that after a lifetime in the broadcast booth, watching a game as a fan holds little appeal.

"During the World Series back around '77 or '78, there was a game at Dodger Stadium with the Yankees, and I went to the game as a spectator. Now, I hadn't been as a spectator in a long, long time, and I felt somewhat restless that I wasn't broadcasting," Scully recalled Tuesday.

"I did not have the challenge of trying to describe, accurately and quickly, the way it should be done. I just sat there, and I was not happy, I'll be honest. So I realized that although I love the game, what I loved more was broadcasting it," he said.

Scully spoke to the AP because the Library of Congress has announced it will preserve his call of a 1957 game between the Dodgers and the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds, the final time they played at the hallowed old stadium. Both teams moved to California after that season, opening up the West Coast to Major League Baseball.

Scully's call of Sandy Koufax's 1965 perfect game is more famous. But that game at the Polo Grounds meant more to him personally, because he grew up going to games there, cheering for the Giants and dreaming of watching from the press box.

"It was so meaningful to me. I'm not sure what it really means to baseball fans anymore," Scully said. "The sands of time have washed over the Polo Grounds. But for me, it was one of the more memorable games I was ever involved in."

During that broadcast, Scully implored the players to take their time before there franchises left town: "Let's take it easy, we just want to take one last lingering look at both of you." The Library of Congress called it "a masterful example of the artistry that great sports announcers bring to their work, as well as their empathy for players and fans."

Six decades later, Scully is having an easier time letting go. So no plans to keep track Monday when Los Angeles plays the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium.

"All summer long, I expect to get feelings of nostalgia, wistfulness, whatever the word may be, but no, I am comfortable, I do know in my heart and soul I am where I should be, and that really is all I need," he said.

"Sure, after 67 years, you'll bet I'll miss it," he added. "But heck, I miss the guys I hung out with when I was in school."

Giants spring training Day 44: Marrero caps huge spring with eighth homer

Giants spring training Day 44: Marrero caps huge spring with eighth homer

MESA, Ariz. — The Giants went 0-62 last season when trailing after eight innings. Chris Marrero wasn’t around for any of that, but it’s a stat that could help Marrero as he tries to lock up a bench spot. 

The first baseman/left fielder crushed a three-run shot in the ninth inning Tuesday, wiping out a two-run deficit against the Cubs. Marrero also has two walk-off homers this spring. 

“This kid, you see it when he goes up there. He’s got great focus,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s intensity and determination. From day one, you could see it in his at-bats. Late in the game, he seems very comfortable. He wants to go up there.”

Tuesday’s homer, which shot out to right-center, was the eighth of the spring for Marrero. That ties him with a guy named Bryce Harper for the MLB lead, and the vast majority of Marrero’s bombs were no-doubters. 

“It’s been a great spring for him,” Bochy said. “The last game here, it seems fitting that he would do something like that. He’s already done it a couple of times. This kid has done all he can. I love his swing and the work that he’s put in.”

With Michael Morse down, Marrero is the best remaining option as a power right-handed bat off the bench, a glaring need a year ago. Justin Ruggiano, another one in the mix, followed Marrero’s shot with one of his own. The homer was Ruggiano’s second of the spring. 

Ruggiano is a better fit defensively in the outfield, but Marrero has been solid at first and Bochy said he’s fine with what he’s seen in left field. “He’s still working on it,” Bochy said, noting that Marrero will play left field during the Bay Bridge Series. 

LEADING OFF: Denard Span saw a wild pitch bounce off the bricks behind home plate, and he never slowed down. Span sped around third in the second inning and slid in ahead of the throw. The notable part of the play wasn’t that a quirky bounce allowed Span to take 180 feet on a wild pitch. It was that his legs did. The 33-year-old has been a different guy in his second spring with the Giants. Last year, Span was coming off hip surgery. This spring, his old game has returned.

“I’ve just been able to do the things I’ve always been able to do,” Span said. “I have more control of my body. I’m stronger. I had a full offseason and a full spring training to get my legs up under me. The last couple of weeks, I’ve felt much better and more confident.”

A healthy and spry Span would be a big boost to a lineup that often looked flat in the second half last season Span showed off every aspect of his game Tuesday. He blasted a leadoff homer on Jake Arrieta’s second pitch, and during their second matchup, he put a perfect bunt down the third base line for a single. Span stole second easily before his race home. 

“He’s playing terrific baseball and he’s been a real inspiration, being our leadoff hitter,” Bochy said. “That’s what we needed — energy at the top of the order.”

TRAINER’S ROOM: Eduardo Nuñez (shoulder) is feeling much better, and Bochy said he’ll play third base during the games at AT&T Park before getting four or five innings at shortstop on Saturday. Joe Panik (drilled in the back on Monday) said he’s feeling fine. 

POSITION BATTLES: Here’s the latest on Matt Cain, and here’s an update on Aaron Hill and Jimmy Rollins. 

ICYMI: Big news today from NBC Bay Area. Matt Williams, Javier Lopez and Cody Ross have joined out pre- and post-game shows. You can find stories about those guys on our homepage here. Those shows will also now be an hour long on both ends of the game, adding an extra hour of Giants coverage to your day. Which is good. 

That’s all on the way during the regular season. If you missed any of our spring coverage, you can find a bunch of features here, and podcasts here (spring pods included Mike Morse, Matt Cain, Mac Williamson, Jimmy Rollins and others, with one more coming this week). And in case you’re new to our coverage, the Twitter account is here and the Facebook page is here. Next stop, San Francisco …