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SAN FRANCISCO -- There will be no better celebration of freedom for Brandon Belt than if he is activated from the disabled list on the Fourth of July, as he is targeting.
The tentative plan is for the Giants first baseman to begin his minor league rehab assignment this week -- as early as Wednesday and as late as Friday. He'll likely DH with the Single-A Giants in San Jose before joining the Triple-A Grizzlies to play full games in Fresno.
Gripping a bat hasn't been a problem. Belt, who has been running and lifting consistently, took live BP both in Arizona and before the game Monday. The biggest pain point for Belt's surgically repaired left thumb is gripping the baseball to make throws.
"He's doing a lot better," Bochy said. "That will be the last box to check, getting his throwing into shape."
It's a box that Belt appeared to check on Monday.
"Huge difference the past few days gripping the ball to throw it," Belt said. "Didn't hold back at all.
"Everything feels pretty much normal," he added, moving around his left thumb, which was fractured and stabilized with two pins in May.
The club believed he would be able to return after six weeks, but a July 4 return would represent the eight-week mark in Belt's recovery.
Belt expects to clear another hurdle on Monday when he hits off a machine, which will be his first test facing significant velocity.
The 26-year old was hitting .264 with nine home runs in 35 games this year before he was hit by Dodgers starter Paul Maholm on May 9. But as good teams do, the Giants have stepped up to cover for their injured. Michael Morse is batting .330 with five home runs over 28 games at first.
Still, the Giants will be glad to have their full complement as they battle through a difficult stretch. After two wins to claim a series in Arizona, the Giants have dropped nine of their last 12 games.
"Feels good to see the end," Belt said, talking about his recovery. "The end is near, in a good way."