SAN FRANCISCO – Brandon Belt already knew he’d miss this long-planned “All-Brandon Weekend” promotion because of his fractured left thumb.
It turns out he’ll spend it a little further from AT&T Park that originally planned. Belt was supposed to get at-bats Saturday and Sunday for Single-A San Jose. But because he’s feeling good, the Giants went ahead and accelerated his minor league rehab assignment. He’ll start at designated hitter for Triple-A Fresno Saturday and play first base for the Grizzlies on Sunday.
Those squirrelly Single-A pitchers might have had something to do with it, too. Belt was hit by a pitch in each of his two minor league rehab games for San Jose on Thursday and Friday. He also hit a home run Friday night, fulfilling a pledge he made to the little girl who threw out the first pitch and is battling cancer.
There’s still no exact timetable for Belt’s activation, although his personal goal was to return July 4. As I’ve pointed out a few times in recent days, the Giants learned a lesson last season when they were struggling to score runs and might have rushed back Pablo Sandoval from the DL. Sandoval didn’t have his timing down (he was 4 for 6 in two minor league games) and ended up compounding the damage by going 3 for 33 in his first nine games back.
One of those games was Homer Bailey’s no-hitter at Cincinnati, incidentally. Bailey pitches against the Giants on Sunday.
Bochy will keep last year’s experience with Sandoval in mind as the Giants evaluate Belt’s readiness.
“We’ll check out his timing, his balance, his bat speed, all these things, before we decide if he’s ready,” Bochy said. “You have to be careful, especially if your offense is sputtering. You want to rush it but if the player isn’t ready, it compounds the damage.
“You miss as much time as Pablo last year or Belt this year and it does take awhile to get your timing. That’s why we have a spring training. I think we need to remind ourselves of that and be careful.”
As for Angel Pagan, he gave his back a couple days of full rest after the club finally placed him on the DL. He’s back to baseball activities, hitting off a tee and also running on a treadmill. The Giants didn’t take batting practice today and won’t tomorrow – part of a “less is more” philosophy as Bochy tries to change up a sluggish offense – but Pagan could hit on the field. If he doesn’t take BP Sunday, then he’ll come in on the day off Monday to do so.
It remains Bochy’s hope that Pagan will be ready to play Tuesday, when he’s eligible to come off the DL. By now as it concerns Pagan, the manager’s best guess is pretty much just that, though.
In the meantime, Gregor Blanco has played every inning of the last 12 games as the center fielder and leadoff hitter, and Bochy acknowledged it hasn’t been pretty ever since that two-hit game against Chris Sale in Chicago. Blanco has scored one run in the last eight games, and now that the home runs have slowed down teamwide, the lack of a dependable leadoff presence has become even more of an issue.
Has Bochy considered other leadoff options?
“Oh yeah,” he said.
Pressed for names, though, Bochy came up with only Juan Perez.
Finally, Buster Posey is getting a routine day off. The Giants are still in first place, after all, it’s still June, and Posey can’t be ground into a nub before the All-Star break. He was going to get a day off either Saturday night or Sunday afternoon. Since Tim Hudson is starting Sunday, and Posey has caught every one of the right-hander’s starts, Bochy decided he would rather have his catcher start the series finale.
The Giants just hope they won’t be playing to avoid a four-game sweep Sunday.