Is it time for Giants to ship Belt to the minors?


Is it time for Giants to ship Belt to the minors?

PHILADELPHIA Brandon Belt walked to the plate in the 12thinning and locked eyes with third base coach Tim Flannery. Brandon Crawford hadjust hit a leadoff double, and Belt was expecting the bunt sign.

Once he gave me the hit sign, I was a little pumped upabout it, Belt said. I wanted to go up and make something happen.

And I couldnt get it done.

It made the result that much more frustrating as Beltdressed for a five-hour flight home. Belt struck out, so did pinch hitterEmmanuel Burriss, and right there the Giants weaknesses were exposed in a 4-3loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday.

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The Giants need more threats on their bench. They certainlyrequire more production out of their first basemen. They arent getting it fromBelt, who was 0 for 5 with three strikeouts to finish a rotten, 1-for-20 roadtrip. Hes in a 2-for-27 slide since the All-Star break that has the Giantspondering anything and everything.

Asked if he would discuss his options at first base with GMBrian Sabean, Giants manager Bruce Bochy glanced at his phone: Getting a textright now.

So there you go. Could the Giants swap Belt with Brett Pillat Triple-A Fresno? Could they unearth a first baseman on the trade market? Orcould they move Pablo Sandoval to first base and try to acquire a thirdbaseman?

Is all of this going through Belts mind?

Thats part of the problem, Belt said. Some of that stuffcreeps into your mind. The battle is to keep those thoughts out of your headand play baseball.

Hes not fighting a winning battle at the moment. A dayearlier, Belt stranded the bases loaded twice. His average is down to .231 andhis .341 on-base percentage doesnt appear to be much of a saving grace when hesonly got a .370 slugging percentage to pair with it.

He looks completely, utterly, totally lost at the plate.

Its just more mental than anything, probably, Belt said. Itsnot fun. Ive been through it before. You just have to see the light at the endof the tunnel and believe youll come out of it. You start guessing too muchinstead of seeing it and hitting it.

Can he figure it out against major league pitching?

Yeah, pretty much because Ive moved up levels andstruggled before, Belt said. Its always been a confidence issue. Its alwaysbeen a mental thing for me. Once I get that mindset right, it sorts everythingout. That helps, knowing Ive done it before and I can do it again.

One thing hes never done: Put down a sacrifice bunt. Inhis professional career, majors and minors, Belt doesnt own one sac hit.

Thats one of the reasons Bochy didnt order Belt to bunt Crawfordto third base.

I know hes struggling, but youve got to think hell getit done, Bochy said. Im not really big on bunting a guy over when youre notin the heart of your order. We just had two tough at-bats there, he andBurriss. Those little things come back to get you, and they got us today.

The Giants dont have many options on their roster. IfHector Sanchez were still healthy and active, itd be a no-brainer to have himstart Monday against Padres left-hander Clayton Richard and put Buster Posey atfirst base. But now the backup catcher is Eli Whiteside, whose bat is nowherenear as welcome a sight.

The Giants could move Sandoval to first base and startJoaquin Arias at third, but that would mean giving Crawford astart against a left-hander.

Or they could replace Belt with Pill, who was hitting .282with four home runs, 14 doubles and 27 RBIs in 36 games for Fresno.

Bochy let Belt swing away in the 12th. But thosesigns of faith are not without their limits.

Giants lineup: Ruggiano moves up against lefty Lester

Giants lineup: Ruggiano moves up against lefty Lester

Bruce Bochy and Joe Maddon issued their lineups for Game 2 of the four-game series in Chicago:

Giants (20-26)
1. Joe Panik (L) 2B
2. Christian Arroyo (R) 3B
3. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Justin Ruggiano (R) RF
6. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
7. Eduardo Nunez (R) LF
8. Gorkys Hernandez (R) CF
9. Johnny Cueto (R) P (4-3, 4.50 ERA)

Cubs (22-21)
1. Ben Zobrist (S) 2B
2. Kyle Schwarber (L) LF
3. Kris Bryant (R) 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
5. Ian Happ (S) CF
6. Jason Heyward (L) RF
7. Willson Contreras (R) C
8. Addison Russell (R) SS
9. Jon Lester (L) P (2-2, 3.57 ERA)

Giants notes: Blach shows resiliency; another option in center?

Giants notes: Blach shows resiliency; another option in center?

CHICAGO — John Lackey's night started with a leadoff homer. Ty Blach's night started with a 13-pitch battle. Neither one is a positive for a pitcher, but Blach didn't view it that way. He actually appreciated Ben Zobrist stretching him out.

"It's good to have a battle like that and get you locked in," Blach said. "It gets you focused and you'll be like, I can execute and get guys out. It's good. It's a good battle."

There, in a nutshell, is so much of what Bruce Bochy loves about his young left-hander. The Giants have found Blach's arm and resolve to be remarkably resilient. He wasn't bothered when they moved him to the bullpen and he didn't get too high when they moved him back to the rotation. He is the same after seven shutout innings or three poor ones. Bochy smiled when asked about the Zobrist at-bat, which ended in a strikeout looking. 

"How 'bout that?" the manager said. "He won that at-bat. It seems like the advantage goes to the hitter, seeing all those pitches. He kept his focus and got a called strikeout and here he is pitching in the eighth inning."

After needing 13 pitches for one out, Blach got the next 23 on 81 pitches. Bochy thought Blach tired a bit in the eighth, but the deep effort allowed Bochy to mix and match in the bullpen, and ultimately he found the right mix. Hunter Strickland and Mark Melancon closed it out and got Blach his second win.

--- From last night, Joe Panik's huge night helped give Blach an early lead. With the help of Ron Wotus and his shift charts, he also put on a show defensively.

--- We're trying something new right after the final pitch: Here are five quick takeaways from the 6-4 win.

--- The options game sent Kelby Tomlinson back to Triple-A on Wednesday when the Giants activated Melancon, but his latest stint in Sacramento comes with a twist. Tomlinson started his third consecutive game in center field on Monday. The Giants are getting a bit more serious about their longtime plan to make Tomlinson a super-utility player. 

“Tommy is a valuable guy in the majors and if we can give him some experience in the outfield, it gives you more flexibility and versatility,” manager Bruce Bochy said. 

This is not Tomlinson’s first foray into the outfield. He did work there in the offseason after the 2015 season and he has played 25 big league innings in left field the last two seasons. This is Tomlinson’s first real experience with center field, and while in the past he has said that the transition isn’t as easy as some might think, Bochy is confident Tomlinson can figure it out. He certainly has the speed to be a semi-regular in the outfield, and the Giants aren’t exactly brimming with quality center field options behind Denard Span, who is dealing with his second injury of the season. 

“It’s a little different now,” Bochy said when asked about Tomlinson’s past experiences in the outfield. “He’s in Sacramento doing it, and knowing there’s a possibility we could need help in the outfield.”

If the switch doesn’t come in handy this season, it could in 2018. Bochy compared Tomlinson’s infield-outfield ability to Eduardo Nuñez, who has found regular playing time in left but is a free agent after the year. 

--- Hunter Pence did some light running in the outfield before Monday’s game. Bochy said Pence is still about a week away from being an option.

--- Bochy has said it a few times now when asked about the standings, so it’s officially a new motto for a team that got off to a brutal start: “We’ve put ourselves in a great situation for a great story.”

--- They're starting to get a little grumpy around here with their team hovering around .500. Perhaps the Cubs thought they could fool a few on the way out of Wrigley.