Giants Insider notebook: Belt makes most of start


Giants Insider notebook: Belt makes most of start

Feb. 28, 2011

MARYVALE, Ariz. -- Brandon Belt found his comfort zone Monday, and the results were pretty spectacular.His comfort zone is as a member of the starting lineup, it turns out. Giants manager Bruce Bochy gave him his first start of the spring against the host Brewers at Maryvale Park, and Belt took advantage of the opportunity by showing off the all-around game that's turned him into the unquestioned top prospect in the organization.He wasn't really tested defensively, but everyone's already well aware that he's exceptional at first base. He ran, hit and hit for power, though, going 3-for-5 with two doubles and four RBIs in the Giants' 10-9 victory. He also got to flash the speed and smarts that prompted general manager Brian Sabean to call him the best baserunner in the organization when he got a great jump off first base on a hit-and-run after his single and scored easily when fellow prospect Brad Eldred doubled into the left-field corner in the second inning."It makes a difference starting," Belt said. "It's a totally different routine."The routine of coming off the bench is unfamiliar to any stud player; when you're as good as Belt is, you start. Period. And Belt conceded that he "tried to do a little too much" in his previous spring cameos as a backup."Obviously I have a little bit more confidence now," he explained. "The past few games I was coming in late, getting an at-bat a game. I was probably pressing a little bit because I wanted to get that first hit. But today I could kind of relax a little bit more and just do my thing, since I knew I was going to have a couple of at-bats. Now I just have to be consistent with that."Belt, whom Bochy and Sabean have said will make the team only if he proved he's ready to play in the big leagues every day, is now 3-for-7 in Cactus League action.DeROSA STAYS HOT
Many established players aren't asked to make many road trips during spring training, as evidenced by the absence of Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell and even Buster Posey -- a grizzled vet's spirit in a second-year man's body -- on Monday.Thirteen-year veteran Mark DeRosa, however, has something to prove this spring after missing most of last season with a wrist injury that required a second surgery in about 10 months, and made the most of his trip to Maryvale by rapping out another pair of hits to raise his batting average to a ridiculous .750 (6-for-8) in three games.DeRosa started at second base again, but Freddy Sanchez is expected to make his 2011 debut on Tuesday, so DeRosa wanted to "steal some extra at-bats" before Sanchez's return.One of DeRosa's hits was a two-run homer of the top of the wall in left-center field, and it came on a 3-0 pitch."It was a fastball right down the middle," DeRosa said with a smile. "It was 3-0, so I looked over to the dugout and Boch kind of gave me the nod to swing away."Bochy said DeRosa still will see time at second base this spring to spell Sanchez, who is recovered from offseason surgery on his left shoulder, but he'll also play some at third base, first base and in the outfield."It's pretty crowded out there in the outfield right now," DeRosa said, "but I'm ready for anything Boch wants me to do. I just want to keep putting together good at-bats, playing good baseball and try to force my way into the lineup somehow."He had an ice pack on his wrist when he left the Maryvale clubhouse with carpool buddy Pablo Sandoval, who went 1-for-3 and is batting .400 (4-for-10) thus far, but DeRosa said the injury is a non-issue at this point, requiring only "superstitious maintenance."ISHI IN THE OUTFIELD
Travis Ishikawa, whose roster status is in question this spring as a result of Belt's presence, started in left field Monday and looked quite comfortable, easing back and to his right to run down a drive in the gap on the most difficult play he faced.He also went 2-for-3 with a double to lift his Cactus League batting average to .375 (3-for-8).Ishikawa's ability to handle outfield duty -- he's a first baseman by trade -- could increase his chances of making the team, as well as make him more appealing to other clubs should the Giants try to move him to alleviate their numbers crunch.Whatever happens, Ishikawa is enjoying himself for the moment. He said the last time he played in the outfield during a non-spring training game was in 2002."I love it," he said on his way out of the clubhouse. "I had a blast!"Nate Schierholtz, another potential victim of the numbers crunch, also had two hits and made the play of the game with a diving catch in right field.SUPPAN SHINES
Right-hander Jeff Suppan, vying for a spot on the pitching staff as a long reliever and emergency starter, isn't used to competing for a roster spot, but he sure looked up to the task against the Brewers, for whom he pitched from 2007 until a midseason trade to the Cardinals last season.In becoming the first Giants pitcher to go three innings, Suppan was virtually perfect, allowing his only baserunner on an error by shortstop Mike Fontenot. Immediately after the error, Suppan motioned to Fontenot in what appeared to be something of a pick-me-up, then promptly rolled a double play ball that Fontenot turned to complete.Suppan conceded that results actually do matter for him this year, as opposed to simply working on things to prepare for the season."I've never really done this before, but yeah, I have to think about that," he said. "I have to get guys out and work on things, so it's a little different."CATCHING UP WITH PRINCE
Giants starter Barry Zito had a rough day on the mound, walking five and allowing three hits while surrendering two runs over 1 23 innings in his 2011 debut, but his spirits were high enough after his outing to have some fun when asked about his verbal exchange with Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder in the first inning.Zito ended up walking Fielder, who appeared to be jawing at the lefty when he got to first base. Zito said it all started when he asked the umpire during the at-bat if a certain pitch had been called a ball or a strike, and Fielder jumped in to give his opinion."He was telling me that it was a ball," said Zito, who was then asked if he'd said anything to Fielder after the walk."Yeah, we chatted," he said, clearly making it up as he went. "Asked him how his offseason went. 'How's the family?' No new tattoos."INJURY UPDATES
Closer Brian Wilson, bothered by back stiffness early in camp, stayed behind for another throwing session, and pitching coach Dave Righetti stayed with him.Bochy said Wilson's session went well, but he was non-committal on Wilson making his Cactus League debut Wednesday.Also on the injury front, Andres Torres didn't play Monday because of soreness in his side. Bochy downplayed the injury but wouldn't say when Torres would return to game action.
Lefty reliever Javier Lopez gave up three runs on three hits in one inning of work. Righty Sergio Romo gave up one hit in his scoreless frame. Fontenot's only hit was a double. Marc Kroon, a hard-throwing reliever who spent the past several years starring in Japan, gave up two runs on three hits. Casey Daigle gave up a pair of runs on three hits, too, but he still picked up his second save of the spring.

Warriors the establishment, and the field the barbarians at the gate


Warriors the establishment, and the field the barbarians at the gate

Programming note: Warriors-Rockets coverage starts tonight at 6:30pm on NBC Sports Bay Area, and continues immediately after the final buzzer.

The NBA offseason ended as it began – with someone burning money for our amusement.

The San Antonio Spurs re-upped center LaMarcus Aldridge, with whom head coach Gregg Popovich had an off-season hug-it-out to repair what seemed to be a fraying relationship.

Thus, after the Golden State Warriors boatraced the field, the NBA responded by firing out $1.942 billion in free agent signings. This proves yet again that the problem with rising salaries in sports is not the fault of the players, but of the owners.

And that contreacts and player movement are an increasingly powerful turn-on in a sport that is facing an existential crisis.

Namely, how to build suspense into a season that looks foreordained for the Warriors without hoping for catastrophic injuries. Indeed, as the Warriors open with Houston tonight, there is far more national buzz around the new-look Rockets than the seemingly invulnerable Warriors.

[SHILLER: Draymond responds to D'Antoni's 'they're not gonna stop us either' claim]

It’s a bit like the old comic book conundrum – why was Wolverine a more compelling character than Superman?

Now this may be our fault as consumers for wanting something new to support our pathetically small attention spans. Or more intriguingly, being drawn to the flawed unknown rather than the excellent known.

But changing the American character is not an easy thing to do, as our most recent political developments have shown. We are who we are, and while we will watch the superb team every time, we will be more interested in the one that looks like it could blow itself to bits at any moment (Houston, or Cleveland, or Oklahoma City), or the long-downtrodden failure that suddenly looks like it might no longer be so downtrodden (Philadelphia, Minnesota, or maybe even Philadelphia again).

Or, weirdest of all, the team that used to be the standard, fell off the edge of the planet to the nation’s glee, and is just now showing signs of reconstruction (the Los Angeles Lakers).

Evidently what we want to say is that we like is change – violent, bizarre change, the crazier the narrative the better.

But here, we have the Golden State Warriors, who have chosen a far more conservative path – winning four of every five games, no matter what month, no matter what opponent, and winning nine of every 10 at home, no matter what month, no matter what opponent. And the measured eyeballs of media ratings say the Warriors are the bait behind which all other teams draft.

In short, the Warriors are the establishment, and the field is the barbarians at the gate. It’s just a matter how you feel about the barbarians, and the gate.

I know how the voting here would go. The rest of you are on your own, watching money getting thrown around in hope of some kind of regime change before the end of the decade.

Draymond responds to D'Antoni's 'they're not gonna stop us either' claim


Draymond responds to D'Antoni's 'they're not gonna stop us either' claim

Programming note: Warriors-Rockets coverage starts tonight at 6:30pm on NBC Sports Bay Area, and continues immediately after the final buzzer.

A couple weeks ago, Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said something about the Warriors that made headlines.

"You're not gonna stop them. It's just not gonna happen. They're not gonna stop us either. Should be fun."

On Monday, Draymond Green was asked about D'Antoni's comments.

"You should believe that. I'm turning over a new leaf," Draymond began, before giving his real thoughts. "Number 1 -- they want it to be a shootout, which is fine. But we're gonna play some defense.

"We score pretty well, but we're a damn good defensive team, too. So we're gonna play some defense."

The Rockets made some significant changes to their roster this offseason, most notably the addition of Chris Paul.

But Houston also added defensive-minded guys in P.J. Tucker and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.

But as Draymond pointed out:

"I don't know how serious they take defense with that comment, but I know they added some good defensive players."

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders and a Web Producer at NBC Sports Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller