Bochy opines on Belt's power, Sandoval's weight


Bochy opines on Belt's power, Sandoval's weight

CHICAGO -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he only had one real choice to make in Sunday's lineup, and that was whether to play Brandon Belt or Brett Pill at first base.

Belt was hitting left-handers very well earlier in the season, but his splits have gone back to what you might expect: .280 vs. right-handers and .232 vs. lefties.

So Pill, who has been playing every day at Triple-A Fresno, gets a shot.

One other oddity remains from Belt's splits: He has four home runs in 95 at-bats against lefties, and zero in 232 at-bats against right-handers.

Yep. Belt hasn't hit a home run off a right-hander all season. Bochy said he isn't fretting over that. He's pleased with the progress Belt has made, especially making more consistent contact. He also said he wouldn't recommend that Belt return to the Dominican winter league, and that a rest would probably benefit him more than anything.

"Without question, the progress has been pretty good with Brandon," Bochy said. "The contact, the swings and misses he had earlier in the season, he's made some adjustments which have helped him. His confidence has grown, too. Like all young players, it's the normal growth you see. He's turning on balls better but he's still using left field."

Does Bochy envision Belt hitting more home runs next year?

"I do think that's going to happen," the manager said. "He's shown more power, not with home runs, but he's driving the ball better. In batting practice, he's getting through the ball better. And he's strong. Yeah, I think with the adjustments he's made, it'll help him from the power side."

Bochy is keenly aware that the Giants haven't received a home run from a corner infielder since July 8. That's when Pablo Sandoval hit his last one.

And then you've got second base, where the Giants have received one homer all season. Their pitchers have hit two, by the way.

As a team, their 81 home runs are the fewest in the major leagues.

"It's really pretty amazing that we're putting runs on the board without the power," Bochy said. "Power really helps you when you get behind. But we got some timely hits (Saturday) and we got a bases-clearing double. That's been working for us."

It would help to get Sandoval's home run stroke going. He's on a pretty good power outage in his own right -- 104 at-bats -- and Bochy said the time the Panda has missed on the disabled list has messed with his timing. He's still out in front too often.

Then came the burning question: Is Sandoval too heavy?

"That's a good question," Bochy said. "It's an ongoing issue, obviously, and something he's been battling. He showed last year he's a different hitter when his weight is down."

Sandoval often rides an exercise bike after games while his teammates are attacking the spread. He hasn't gained weight in recent weeks.

"We're maintaining it," Bochy said. "We're happy with that. I won't lie, we'd like to get him down a little bit, get him back on the program he had two years ago."

Sandoval worked with trainers at Triple Threat Performance in Arizona last offseason, but it lacked the intensity of the previous winter. Bochy said no plans have been made for Sandoval yet this coming winter, but all parties are well aware that work needs to be done.

We've got a 40 percent chance of rain near the first pitch. Delays would be unwelcome, especially with the Giants playing a Labor Day matinee at AT&T Park on Monday. But overcast skies seem fairly bright as of this writing. So hold a good thought.

Odd fact: This is Matt Cain's fourth consecutive start on the road.

The lineup: CF Pagan, 2BScutaro, 3B Sandoval, C Posey, RF Pence, SS Arias, LF Nady, 1B Pill, P Cain.

With new posting system reportedly agreed to, Giants can soon chase Ohtani


With new posting system reportedly agreed to, Giants can soon chase Ohtani

SAN FRANCISCO -- As the Giants continue to wait for a resolution to the Giancarlo Stanton chase, they may soon find themselves bidding on another superstar talent they have long coveted. 

According to multiple reports, Major League Baseball, the Players Association, and the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization agreed to a new posting system that should allow Shohei Ohtani to be made available in about 10 days. Joel Sherman of the NY Post reported that MLB owners must ratify the agreement next Friday and Ohtani would then be posted that day or the following day. 

The Giants have made no secret of their desire to jump feet-first into that process, and general manager Bobby Evans and assistant GM Jeremy Shelley visited Japan in September to scout Ohtani, a potential two-way star. Ohtani wants to be a starter and a hitter in the big leagues, as he was in Japan, and after watching tape of the 23-year-old, Bruce Bochy said he would be on board. 

"He's good," Bochy said after a game at Dodger Stadium late in the season. "I absolutely would play him every day."

There has been little clarity over the past two months as MLB teams have waited for the negotiations to play out. Per Sherman, there will be new posting rules in future years but Ohtani will operate under the old system. That limits the Giants to a $300,000 bonus because they went over their spending limit in 2015, but club officials don't believe that will disqualify them. Very little is known about Ohtani's preferences, but by coming to the United States in 2017, he is potentially forfeiting a $200 million deal as a free agent. That alone is enough to validate the fact that the Giants can safely chase Ohtani, knowing that the signing bonus won't be a deal breaker.

MLB crushes Braves with sanctions for international signing infractions


MLB crushes Braves with sanctions for international signing infractions

ATLANTA -- The Braves lost 13 prospects and former general manager John Coppolella was banned for life by Major League Baseball on Tuesday for circumventing international signing rules from 2015-17.

Former Atlanta special assistant Gordon Blakeley, who was the team's international scouting chief, was suspended from baseball for one year by Commissioner Rob Manfred.

Sanctions imposed by Manfred will leave the Braves unable to bargain at full strength for a top Latin American prospect until 2021.

Manfred said MLB's investigation determined the Braves moved international signing bonus pool money from one player to boost another player's contract.

Most notable among the players the Braves will lose is Kevin Maitan, an infielder from Venezuela who signed for $4.25 million in 2016.

Other "high-value" players the Braves will lose include Juan Contreras, Yefri del Rosario, Abrahan Gutierrez, Juan Carlos Negret, Yenci Pena, Yunior Severino, Livan Soto and Guillermo Zuniga.

Three more international signees - Brandol Mezquita, Angel Rojas and Antonio Sucre - were declared free agents. The team's contract with prospect Ji-Hwan Bae, which was not yet final, was disapproved. Finally, the Braves were banned from signing prospect Robert Puason in the 2019-20 signing period.

The 13 players will be free to negotiate as free agents with other teams.

Also, the Braves will forfeit their third-round selection in the 2018 draft as punishment for offering "impermissible benefits" to an unnamed draft pick in an effort to convince him to sign for a lower bonus.

The investigation showed the players signed by the Braves in 2016-17 would have been unavailable if the team had not circumvented the rules by moving bonus pool money.

Manfred said stripping the Braves of the 13 players was not sufficient punishment. He said "additional sanctions are warranted to penalize the club for the violations committed by its employees."

Therefore, the Braves will be prohibited from signing any international player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period. Also, the team's international signing bonus pool for the 2020-21 signing period will be reduced by 50 percent.

The Braves already cannot give an international signing bonus of more than $300,000 for 2017-18 and 2018-19 as penalties for exceeding their signing bonus pools under baseball's previous labor contract.

And there is still more discipline to be handed down.

Manfred said he intends "to discipline other Braves international baseball operations employees who participated in the misconduct."

Coppolella was forced to resign after the season. Former team president John Hart was moved to a senior adviser role when a new general manager, Alex Anthopoulos, was hired on Nov. 13. Hart left the team on Friday.

"The senior baseball operations officials responsible for the misconduct are no longer employed by the Braves," Manfred said. He also said the Braves "cooperated throughout the investigation."

Coppolella did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

The Braves braced fans for the sanctions when team chairman Terry McGuirk apologized to fans "on behalf of the entire Braves family" for the rules violations at the news conference to introduce Anthopoulos.

The Braves said in a statement released Tuesday they "understand and accept the decision regarding the penalties that have been handed down.

"As we expressed last week, our organization has not lived up to the standard our fans expect from us and that we expect from ourselves. For that, we apologize. We are instituting the changes necessary to prevent this from ever happening again and remain excited about the future of Braves baseball."

Manfred said he is confident the Braves management team led by McGuirk, Anthopoulos and vice chairman John Schuerholz "have and will put in place procedures to ensure that this type of conduct never occurs again and which will allow the club to emerge from this difficult period as the strong and respected franchise that it has always been."

The Braves are not the first team to be found guilty of violating rules in signing international players.

In 2016, the Boston Red Sox lost five players and were banned from signing international amateur free agents for one year as punishment for rules violations on signing bonuses.