Tag:Brandon Belt
Posted on: April 4, 2011 10:01 am
Edited on: April 18, 2011 12:12 pm

Pepper: Closer concerns in NL Central

Brandon Lyon

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The National League Central appears to be one of the most competitive divisions in baseball, with up to four legit contenders for the crown, so every little difference is going to be magnified when it comes to the end of the season.

While we're a long way from magic numbers, but the division's closer could be cause for concern.

In the first weekend of games, NL Central closers blew four of eight save chances -- including the first three -- and had an ERA of 12.91. Only Pittsburgh's Joel Hanrahan (who is 2 for 2 on save opportunities) hasn't allowed an earned run among the division's six closers.

All six closers have had save opportunities, and half of them are save-less. Milwaukee's John Axford has allowed four earned runs and hasn't finished an inning in two appearances, allowing a walk-off three-run homer to Cincinnati's Ramon Hernandez on Thursday and allowing two hits on Sunday before being replaced.

St. Louis closer Ryan Franklin gave up a game-tying homer in an eventual opening-day loss to the Padres and Houston's Brandon Lyon allowed six hits and three runs, picking up the loss against the Phillies on Friday.

The Cubs' Carlos Marmol struck out the side on Saturday for his first save, but Sunday he walked one and allowed two hits to cough up a lead, sending the Cubs to a 5-4 loss to the Pirates (and setting up Hanrahan's second save).

And then there's Cincinnati's Francisco Cordero, who picked up a save, but didn't instill much confidence in anyone, allowing two hits and a run in Saturday's Reds victory against the Brewers.

It could be a wild ride this year in the NL Central this season, and that's just the ninth inning.

HOMETOWN BOY -- Padres manager Bud Black said part of his reason for setting his rotation as he did was to allow San Diego native Aaron Harang make the start for the Padres' home-opener at Petco Park on Tuesday.

Black said it also helped that Harang has a history of opening day starts. Harang started five consecutive opening days in Cincinnati. He is in his first season with the Padres. [San Diego Union-Tribune]

PRETTY MUCH -- Dustin Pedroia on the Rangers' sweep of the Red Sox: "They kicked our ass, that's it." [Boston Herald]

RAY OF HOPE -- On opening day, the Rays announced a long-term deal with Wade Davis. The team's No. 1 starter, David Price, said he'd be interested in a long-term deal as well.

"Everybody here knows that I feel very comfortable here with the Rays," Price told MLB.com. "And I feel like I fit in very well with this organization and how they do stuff. If it's something we're able to get done, it's definitely something I'd like to do."

TURF CALF? -- Johnny Damon said Tropicana Field's artificial surface may have contributed to his right calf tightness that forced him to be scratched from Sunday's lineup. [St. Petersburg Times]

ANGEL TOURISTS -- Howie Kendrick and Torii Hunter talk about how special the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City is to them. [Orange County Register]

BASEBALL ART -- Aubrey Huff made a diving catch in Los Angeles on Saturday and before Sunday's game, Pat Burrell, Dan Runzler and Brandon Belt taped a body outline in the outfield where Huff made his catch. Here's a picture of their art.

HALLOWED GROUND -- Volunteers cleaned up at the old Tiger Stadium and finished off with a pickup game of baseball. The Navin Field Grounds Crew will be doing this every week during the summer in Detroit, hoping to allow everyone to use the field. [Detroit Free Press]

JAPANESE HERITAGE DAY -- The best highlight of Sunday's Japanese Heritage Day in Oakland was when Ichiro Suzuki caught Kurt Suzuki's fly in right and threw out Hideki Matsui at third base. The A's and their fans also raised more than $65,000 for earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan. [San Francisco Chronicle]

HUMIDOR SECURITY -- MLB has tightened its security procedures concerning the humidor at Coors Field, an "authenticator" will keep an eye on all the baseballs from when they're taken out of the humidor to the umpire's room where they're rubbed down to the Rockies dugout, where they're kept. During the game, he'll watch the bag. [Denver Post]

CARDS OWNER CONFIDENT -- Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. is happy with his team and confident, but added the team does have playroom flexibility of "several million dollars" if the team needs something later in the season. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

COPYING BAGWELL -- Astros shortstop Clint Barmes will wear a protective pad on his left batting glove when he returns to action. Barmes suffered a fractured bone in his hand late in spring training when he was hit by a pitch. Barmes said it's the exact same pad attached by velcro that former Astro Jeff Bagwell used to wear. Barmes said he wore a similar pad after breaking his hand in 2002, but will make it a permanent addition this time. [MLB.com]

VLAD THE ENIGMA -- Vladimir Guerrero has wowed us on the field for years, but not much is known about him off the field. But the Baltimore Sun's Kevin Van Valkenburg and Jeff Zrebiec have managed to write a really interesting feature on the new Oriole. For instance, before every home series, Guerrero writes down the name of all the Spanish-speaking players and coaches coming to town, and will then have his mom cook food for all the Latin players and bring it to the park. Guerrero's mom has lived with him since he was in Montreal. [Baltimore Sun]

REALLY? -- Wearing a guy's jersey to a game is one thing, but a whole uniform, catching gear and all? This Philadelphia fan was at Sunday's game wearing complete catcher's gear, a glove, mask and even taped wrists. I wonder if security allowed him through the gate with metal spikes? [Philadelphia Daily News]

OAKLAND'S 'DUMP' -- Apparently the field at the Oakland Coliseum smells like sewage. And that's not all that's wrong with the Coliseum. [San Francisco Chronicle]

GREINKE PROGRESSING -- The Brewers expect Zack Greinke to throw off the mound at some point during the team's week-long homestead starting today. Greinke still isn't expected to return this month, but throwing off the mound is the first step to determining when he can return. He played long toss and threw from 60 feet before Sunday's game in Cincinnati. [MLB.com]

BLAKE BETTER -- Casey Blake is eligible to come off the disabled list on Wednesday and hopes to be ready when he is eligible. The Dodgers are in Denver on Wednesday. [Los Angeles Times]

REWARD OFFERED -- A $10,000 reward has been offered for information leading to an arrest in the case of Dodger fans beating Giants fan Bryan Stow, 42, a Santa Cruz paramedic and father of two. Stow is currently in a medically induced coma. [Los Angeles Times]

SIGNS YOU'RE OLD -- When Jim Thome faced Blue Jays rookie Kyle Drabek on Saturday, the TV folks accidentally put up Thome's career numbers against Doug Drabek, Kyle's father. [UniWatch Blog]

IZZY SHELVED -- Jason Isringhausen, attempting a comeback with the Mets, left an extended spring training game on Saturday after feeling a "twinge" in his back. [New York Daily News]

DIFFERENT SWING -- John Smoltz talks about his attempt at a golf career. [Detroit Free Press]

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Posted on: March 30, 2011 6:47 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2011 6:55 pm

Belt makes Giants' opening day roster

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Brandon BeltBrandon Belt will indeed be on the Giants' roster when the defending champions start the season tomorrow against the Dodgers.

The team placed first baseman Travis Ishikawa on waivers to make room for Belt, the team's top prospect.

With Belt on the roster, he'll most likely be in the lineup. Last season the Giants kept Buster Posey in Triple-A to avoid starting his arbitration clock. If the Giants are going have the 22-year-old slugging first baseman on the roster, he'll be on the field.

It will also allow the Giants to use Aubrey Huff to the outfield to help the void left by the absence of Cody Ross, who is on the disabled list with a sprained right calf. 

Belt told reporters he cried when manager Bruce Bochy told him the news. That, of course, earned some teasing from his teammates.

"You crying yet Belt?" Huff said, according to the San Jose Mercury News' Andrew Baggarly. "Tear up... I'm going to be tearing up the rest of the year in right field."

Belt hit .282/.338/.479 this spring with three home runs and 13 RBI in 71 at-bats this spring. Last season Belt hit .352/.455/.620 with 23 home runs and 112 RBI at three levels, leading the minors in OPS and was second in on-base percentage. He continued hitting in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .372/.427/.616. He is also a very good defensive first baseman.

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Posted on: March 18, 2011 5:48 pm
Edited on: March 18, 2011 5:49 pm

Could Brandon Belt open year with Giants?

BeltBy Evan Brunell

Last season, the Giants had an elite prospect who was clearly ready for the Show and was better than any of the other options to start at his position. And yet, even though GM Brian Sabean weakly issued denials, it was obvious upon this prospect's reassignment to Triple-A that finances came into play. The club wanted to wait until late May to ensure an extra year of free agency for this heralded prospect.

On May 29, Buster Posey finally hit the majors, wrestled the starting catcher's job away from Bengie Molina and led the team to a division title, requiring the last day of the season to clinch. We all know what happened after that -- a World Series title for the club and NL Rookie of the Year award for the backstop. Given what Posey contributed, it's likely that San Francisco would have won the division by more than one game, but hey, money saved.

A similar decision is at hand this spring, although unlikely the Posey decision, Sabean seems surprisingly open to having first baseman Brandon Belt -- ranked the No. 18 prospect on CBSSports.com's Top 100 Prospects list -- open the year with the big-league squad. 

"I think we're all more open-minded now because he's played a lot, and because of that, has faced front-line pitching," Sabean told the San Francisco Chronicle. "He's started a lot of games. It's not like he's coming in the second part of a game and not facing major-league pitching. With each day that he holds his own or excels, it turns your head."

Belt is currently hitting .283/.340/.522 in 46 at-bats. While spring training statistics aren't worth much, it's an encouraging line to see from the 23-year-old who mashed his way through three levels of the Giants' minor-league system in 2010.

But is it prudent to put Belt in the majors immediately? While the financial considerations of keeping Posey down last season were largely scoffed at given how much of a difference Posey could (and did) make, the same considerations aren't there for Belt. Incumbent first baseman Aubrey Huff is coming off a strong season, and while he could move to left field and bump Pat Burrell, Huff is a liability on defense. Belt himself has been playing around in left, but it's unlikely he can suddenly morph into an average fielder.

In addition, there are no shortage of candidates for two roster spots. While Belt could end up the best hitter of all, it's not clear at the outset that he can outhit Huff and Burrell. The team also has Aaron Rowand, Travis Ishikawa and Nate Schierholtz to worry about. Rowand has a hefty contract and is going nowhere, while both Ishikawa and Schierholtz have no minor-league options. The club has asked around on moving Ishikawa, but has received muted interest from other teams, while Schierholtz has drawn interest due to his defense and hitting left-handed -- the same reasons the Giants would prefer to hang onto him.

Sabean does say that the statuses of Rowand, Ishikawa and Schierholtz won't be major stumbling blocks -- rather, the decision will come down to what makes the Giants a better team.

"If Belt forces his way on, it would have to be legitimate, and we're all agreed he would be the seventh hitter," Sabean added. "The caveat is, there are high expectations and we certainly hope he'll be in a winning situation immediately. There's more pressure associated with that."

The financial considerations remain relevant, however, and Sabean's constant denials of those considerations for both Belt and Posey are odd. Also relevant is just how much better the team will be with Belt at first and Huff in left field. Will the defensive hit offset the offensive increase? That edge isn't really significant at this point, especially if Pat Burrell and/or Mark DeRosa produce.

Bet on Belt opening the year in the minors, but it won't be long before he's in San Francisco.

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