Bochy chooses Hector Sanchez's bat over Belt's

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Bochy chooses Hector Sanchez's bat over Belt's

ATLANTA -- It isn't so Hot-lanta at the moment at Turner Field. Thundershowers cooled it down to a manageable 75 degrees, and the Giants even managed to take batting practice amid a few fat drops.

The pregame news that most will find interesting was Giants manager Bruce Bochy's decision to keep Hector Sanchez in a battery with Barry Zito, and start Buster Posey at first base. In the past, Zito had Sanchez as a personal catcher in order to get regular rest for Posey's ankle and keep continuity with the rest of the staff.

But after hinting that Posey would finally work with Zito, Bochy decided to stick with Sanchez. The reason? He wants to keep the young switch-hitter's bat in the lineup.

I asked the obvious follow-up question. With Posey at first base and Brandon Belt on the bench, does Bochy prefer Sanchez's bat over Belt's?

"Yeah, I think that's fair to say, wouldn't you?" Bochy said. "He's coming off a pretty solid game. That's why I decided to go that way."

The Beltists will not be pleased. They'll point out that although Sanchez is coming off a four-hit game Saturday, Belt drew three walks in last week's Houston series to reach in four of 10 plate appearances. They'll also correctly point out that Belt's .360 OBP is third best on the team, and far better than Sanchez's .282 mark (weighed down by the fact he's walked twice all season.)

This continues to be a sticky situation. Bochy and the coaching staff know what Belt is capable of doing, but they also know that when he's going bad, he's a complete drain on the lineup. He doesn't just go 0 for 12 when he has a bad series. He goes 0 for 12 with eight strikeouts.

The other confounding thing is that Belt is mashing left-handers, which is counterintuitive. In general, it's the manager's job to look at matchups and try to pick spots when he thinks his players will succeed. Today, obviously, he has more confidence in Sanchez than Belt.

Hey, I just tell you what the manager says. Excuse me while I put on a Kevlar vest, just in case.

In other news, Bochy called the team's 4.85 road ERA, the third worst in the majors, "too extreme" when compared to their major league-best 2.31 ERA at home.

"We're not a club that will slug it with other teams," Bochy said. "We'll have to do better in the second half. That last road trip (to Washington and Pittsburgh) didn't help at all. Hopefully we're more acclimated, having just been East, and they know what to expect.

"But that's too dramatic, those numbers."

You know what's not dramatic? Rain delays. Hopefully the weather stays manageable the rest of the night.

Giants spring training day 8: Melancon, Hundley go way back

Giants spring training day 8: Melancon, Hundley go way back

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A couple of days before he signed a four-year deal, Mark Melancon fired off a midnight text to Nick Hundley. 

“Call me,” Melancon wrote.

When Hundley called, he found out his college teammate had chosen the Giants, ending a free agency process the two spoke about often. Two months later, it was Hundley’s turn to reach out. 

“I asked him if he wanted to play together again,” Hundley said. “He said, ‘You better not be messing with me.’”

The Giants signed just two free agents who are guaranteed of being on the opening day roster. In an odd twist, the new closer and new backup catcher have known each other for over a decade. Hundley was a second-round pick in 2005 out of the University of Arizona. A year later, his college teammate Melancon was a ninth-round pick. The two have stayed close throughout the pro ball journey. They were groomsmen in each other’s weddings and their wives and children hang out together. 

“We always talked about playing together,” Hundley said, adding that the odds were long in a 30-team sport.

The friends have crossed off a good chunk of them. Melancon has played for the Yankees, Astros, Red Sox, Pirates and Nationals. Hundley has played for the Padres, Orioles and Rockies. Finally, the two have hooked on to the same team, and the Giants are excited to have them both. Hundley will be the veteran catcher the team has missed in recent years, and the Giants are hopeful that he’s a pinch-hit threat, too. Melancon, of course, was brought in to fix the glaring problem in the ninth. Hundley is confident he’ll do it.

“I’ve caught him since 2005,” he said smiling, “And he’s always been nasty.”

NEW FACE: It’s hard to take much away from drills, but Orlando Calixte certainly impressed. As the Giants worked out on the field for the first time in three days, I asked GM Bobby Evans what Calixte showed the team’s scouts. “Just his athleticism, his tools, they stand out,” Evans said. They certainly do. Calixte is smooth out there, and he showed quickness at short that might differentiate him from the pack of infield options. 

Calixte has also played second, third and the outfield in the minors, and while the Giants intend on keeping five outfielders, that versatility could come into play. The Giants plucked Calixte from Kansas City’s system and put him on the 40-man roster when it became apparent that other offers were out there. They thought he could provide more versatility than Ehire Adrianza, and it helps that he has an option remaining. Calixte has to beat out a bunch of guys to win a roster spot, but given his glove and his status on the 40-man, it would be a surprise if we don’t see him at some point this season. 

ICYMI: Bruce Bochy said he’ll call Johnny Cueto to talk about his preparation for the World Baseball Classic. 

POSITION BATTLE: Matt Cain, the clear frontrunner for the No. 5 spot, faced hitters on the main field. Bochy liked what he saw. “He’s gotten more time away from that surgery and he’s throwing the ball well,” Bochy said. “Buster said the same thing. It’s coming out good.”

NOTEWORTHY: The Giants are serious about making Trevor Brown a more versatile option. He fielded grounders at short today and also spent plenty of time at second. 

QUOTABLE: “Just a good day. We (the coaches) were talking about how it’s changed a little bit. We’re not even in March yet and guys are letting it go.” — Bochy on the first day of live BP sessions. The pitchers were certainly well ahead of the hitters today. 

Will Cueto be ready for the WBC? 'That’s the question we have to answer'

Will Cueto be ready for the WBC? 'That’s the question we have to answer'

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jeff Samardzija whirled and fired a strike to Eduardo Nuñez shortly after 11:30 a.m. on Monday. With that, the Giants took another step back toward actual baseball.

Monday was the first day of live batting practice sessions, but the most important one took place thousands of miles east of Scottsdale Stadium. Johnny Cueto faced teenage prospects at the club’s facility in Santo Domingo, and Bruce Bochy said he would call Cueto to check in on his progress. 

The Giants are not concerned that Cueto — who is tending to his ill father — is missing so much of spring training. They know him well enough by now to know that Cueto paces himself and takes care of his body. They are, however, starting to get a little concerned about Cueto missing so much camp and then going straight to the World Baseball Classic. 

“The spring started early so he’s got plenty of time to get ready for (opening day),” manager Bruce Bochy said. “The question will be will he be ready for the WBC. That’s the question we have to answer.”

Bochy said he would like to see Cueto in the 50-60 pitch range before he goes off to compete for the Dominican Republic. The Dominican team opens play March 9 at Marlins Park. 

“We’re going to talk about a lot of things,” Bochy said. “We’ll see where he’s at, see where he’s at mentally, and see how his father is doing.”

Bochy noted that Nolan Ryan used to show up to camp on March 1 and throw 80 mph, working his way up from there. The Giants view Cueto the same way, but at some point there will be a breaking point where the WBC participation becomes a real concern. At the very least, Bochy said, Cueto might be asked to join the DR team later in the tournament.