Still feeling concussion symptoms, Brandon Belt discusses his future


Still feeling concussion symptoms, Brandon Belt discusses his future

SAN FRANCISCO — On the night that yet another season spiraled out of his hands, Brandon Belt had an eerily prescient conversation with his hitting coach. Belt was on pace to approach 30 homers. A day earlier, he had tied his career-high by crushing his 18th. Hensley Meulens congratulated him and noted that he would easily surpass his previous best. 

“Yeah,” Belt joked, “Unless I get a season-ending injury or something.”

A few hours later, Arizona Diamondbacks rookie Anthony Banda lost command of a curveball and drilled Belt on the side of the helmet. The first baseman went down right away. He hasn’t played since. 

Belt, in a phone interview with NBC Sports Bay Area, acknowledged the obvious: His season almost certainly ended on August 4. He feels better with each passing day, but he is still dealing with lingering problems with his vestibular system and vision. 

The Giants have just 20 games left and Belt is simply running out of time. This was Belt’s fourth documented concussion in the last eight years and third in the last four seasons, but he is not fearful about his future. It’s the opposite, actually. Belt is adamant that he will return next season at 100 percent. 

“There are always going to be some questions about whether this has some long term effects, and hopefully it doesn’t,” Belt said. “But right now it’s not going to keep me from playing baseball. In the long run, I want to make sure I’m one-hundred-thousand percent ready to go when the season starts next year. That’s the long term outlook, and if I can get back this season it’s a bonus.”

Privately, Giants officials have acknowledged for several days that they do not expect Belt to return this season. Belt has been doing light rehab work, but doctors have not yet cleared him for baseball activities. He has more appointments in the coming days, but if his vision issues do not improve this week, the situation will become official. 

“You’re getting close to a point of no return, I guess,” he said. 

Belt has been through this before, with bad luck costing him chunks of two seasons. He missed 46 games in 2014 after getting hit by a Marco Scutaro throw in batting practice. The next year, Belt hit his head against an infielder’s knee while diving back into second. That September concussion ended his season. 

This latest concussion was another fluke, but in an odd way, that was encouraging. Belt was at first concerned about his future, but doctors assured him that he would recover like he has the previous three times. 

“It’s not like I’m repeatedly banging my head against something,” Belt said. “If that was the case, it might affect me more in the long term. This is more sporadic and the hits aren’t too terrible. Once I get over these concussions, they tell me that I won’t have to worry about them anymore.”

Belt did not have any setbacks after recovering from his previous concussions. He said the first couple of weeks this time were pretty rough, but all of the symptoms have dissipated except the vision issues. Joe Panik dealt with those last season and fully recovered. With the last two concussions, it took Belt eight weeks to get fully healthy.

“It’s not that I feel terrible, but it just takes a while to get this stuff to go away,” Belt said. “I wish it didn’t take me as long, but it does. I don’t know how long it’s going to take, but it’s one of those things you can’t rush. This is not something that you can be just 95 percent on.”

As he waits to get back to 100 percent, Belt has tried to find ways to add to a schedule that’s usually filled with long plate appearances and scoops at first base. He was a vocal supporter of his hometown Lufkin Little League during their run through the Little League World Series. He has joined with fellow Texas residents Hunter Pence and Mark Melancon to offer support after Hurricane Harvey. Most of Belt’s hours are spent playing with his young son, Greyson, and watching the team he still leads in homers.  

"I'm really invested in these games," Belt said. "I watched Joe this past week and what he did was super impressive. Being at home is different, but watching them passes three hours every day."

Matt Moore blanks Rockies, continues late-season surge


Matt Moore blanks Rockies, continues late-season surge

SAN FRANCISCO — Matt Moore knew there was something different about his final home start at AT&T Park this season, and not just the fact that he received a loud ovation as he walked off the mound in the seventh. Moore noted later that the outing was the first shutout he has been a part of this year. In fact, it was the first time in 30 starts that he walked off the mound without having allowed a run. 

“I guess it’s better late than never,” he said. 

The Giants are hoping it’s actually a preview of things to come. They counted on Moore to be a big part of their 2017 push, but instead, he likely will finish with the worst ERA of any full-time starter in the National League. Still, general manager Bobby Evans has informed Moore that his 2018 option will be picked up, something that Moore appreciated given the time of year. 

“I always pictured myself here,” he said. 

Whether coincidence or some kind of “weight off the shoulders” situation, Moore’s first start since the public revealing of the decision was his most encouraging of the year. Facing a good lineup, and a team that needed a win desperately, he pitched six shutout innings. The Giants beat the Rockies 4-0. 

Moore was already showing signs of life, with a 3.76 ERA over his seven previous appearances. Bruce Bochy viewed this as another step forward. 

“It’s been getting better and better with each start,” he said. “What he did really well today was on the arm side. He had good balance to both sides of the plate.”

Moore peppered the outside corner with fastballs, and he credited catcher Nick Hundley with stealing a few strikes. The plan allowed Moore to put hitters away in big spots, one of three points of emphasis he brought into the second half. The other two: limiting lefties and getting ahead of hitters.

That’s Moore’s roadmap back to being the player the Giants acquired. For the team as a whole, the roadmap back to relevance is similar to Wednesday’s plan. This is not a home-run hitting lineup, but the Giants are 47-21 when scoring four runs, and Wednesday was a reminder of the different paths to that magical number. 

Brandon Crawford had a solo homer, but the first two runs came on sacrifice flies and the fourth on a walk-wild pitch-single combination. Bochy said he liked “the brand of ball” his team played.

“They executed so well today,” he said. “It’s just good baseball, and that’s what I felt good about.”

Doing due diligence, Giants send Evans, Shelley to scout Shohei Otani in Japan

Doing due diligence, Giants send Evans, Shelley to scout Shohei Otani in Japan

SAN FRANCISCO — A couple of weeks ago, a Giants official expressed amazement about how little was known about the desires of Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani.

“Teams know just about as much as you guys (in the media),” he said. 

The Giants are hoping that changes this week. General manager Bobby Evans and assistant GM Jeremy Shelley have traveled to Japan to take a look at the 23-year-old, who reportedly will come over to play in Major League Baseball next season. 

“There’s going to be a lot of attention on him and it’s part of the scouting process every club goes through,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s doing our due diligence, as you say.”

Otani is a rare prospect, a potential ace on the mound and lineup-altering bat in the outfield. He has 47 homers in just over 1,000 professional at-bats, and this season he’s batting .341. As a hard-throwing pitcher with a wipeout breaking ball, Otani has a 2.57 career ERA for the Nippon Ham Fighters. He had a 1.86 ERA last season with 174 strikeouts in 140 innings. 

Because he’s said to be coming over at such a young age, Otani will sacrifice the chance to sign a massive contract. The CBA limits him to collecting money from a team’s international bonus pool, and the Giants are limited to $300,000. Still, some other big-market teams are in the same boat, and despite their lack of pool money and poor season, the Giants surely believe they have plenty to offer. 

It’s not known what Otani is looking for, but perhaps he wants to play in a big city to make up some of his lost earnings? Perhaps he wants to play on the West Coast, closer to his home country, or in a region with a big Japanese population? Perhaps he’s just a big Buster Posey fan? The Giants intend to find out, and to be in the bidding. 

It’s possible that Otani has seen the way Bochy uses Madison Bumgarner as a pinch-hitter, but Bochy said he can’t imagine using a true two-way player. 

“I don’t think it would work,” he said. “You’re talking more of something that might work in the American League. That’s a lot of throwing and wear-and-tear.”