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Panik, Belt continue to look like answers at top of Giants' lineup

Panik, Belt continue to look like answers at top of Giants' lineup

SCOTTSDALE — Bruce Bochy continues to keep his cards close when asked about his new lineup plans, but a couple of longtime Giants look like they’re trying to force his hand. 

Joe Panik and Brandon Belt once again teamed up together atop the lineup, and once again it looked like a natural fit for a team that appears poised to have Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey and Evan Longoria lined up in the heart of the order. 

Panik led off the game against the Angels with a single and swiped second on a busted hit-and-run. He went to third on a grounder to the right side and scored on a wild pitch. Speed is not Panik’s game, but he’s a smart baserunner, and so much of what he does well matches up with the leadoff spot. 

Panik had a .347 on-base percentage last season and was the hardest player in the majors to strike out. He’s equally adept at facing lefties and righties, too. Panik hit .290 with a .349 OBP against left-handed pitchers last year and .287 with a .347 OBP against right-handed pitchers. 

“I definitely have gotten more comfortable this spring batting leadoff,” Panik said. “The approach is the same, but you are the guy setting the tone. So far I’ve enjoyed it. For me, hitting leadoff, I always think about keeping the same approach, but the more and more I do it, I can definitely see myself in that role.”

Bochy said earlier this week that Panik could remain near the top of the lineup against lefties, even if Austin Jackson — a southpaw crusher — is batting leadoff, and that seems the best option. Hunter Pence has been considered as an option to be the No. 2 hitter, but he’s been searching at the plate all spring, and is batting just .105. 

The Giants are trying to embrace more advanced statistics with a new staff, and the new way of thinking for many teams is that your best all-around hitter should bat second. Belt, on many nights, qualifies, at least against right-handed pitching. He had a .375 on-base percentage and slugged .504 against right-handers last season.

In the third inning Saturday, Belt hit a homer that disappeared onto the back field at Scottsdale Stadium. The blast was his second in two games. In the fourth, Panik drew a two-out walk and Belt followed with a hard double down the left field line. 

“He smoked that,” Bochy said. “That loop (in his swing) wasn’t as big. It was shorter. It wasn’t quite as loopy. He’s got to feel good about his day today.”

The Giants have two more weeks to nail down their final plans, but it seems pretty clear at this point that they’ll leave the desert having found a pretty good solution atop the lineup. 

--- Evan Longoria was out of the lineup for a second straight day because of left ankle/heel tightness. He said the training staff is confident that there are no structural issues. “It just flared up out there during a workout,” Longoria said. It'll be at least a couple more days before he returns. 

--- The Giants played split-squads against the Angels and a couple of young starters had a rough go of it. Over in Tempe, Tyler Beede gave up six runs on eight hits in 2 1/3 innings. Beede was sharp early but was knocked out by a barrage of singles. At Scottsdale Stadium, Andrew Suarez was charged with five earned in four innings. 

--- Steven Duggar is having a solid spring at the plate, but it’s in center where he’s really opening eyes. Duggar chased down a ball to the right-center wall early in the game and made a strong throw to Panik, who made an equally strong throw to third to cut down a would-be triple. Panik said Duggar’s throw hit him in the perfect spot, allowing him to spin and throw in one motion. 

“We all should take as much pride in that as a home run,” Bochy said. “That was perfectly done.”

I’ll say this: It’s an outfield play the Giants would not have made last year. Or the year before. Or the year before that … 

Steph Curry's 30th birthday party was so epic that the Warriors cancelled Tuesday's practice

Kevin Durant/Instagram

Steph Curry's 30th birthday party was so epic that the Warriors cancelled Tuesday's practice

Steph Curry turns 30 years old on Wednesday, but with the Warriors playing the Lakers, his friends and family decided to hold the party for him on Monday night.

Most of Curry's Warriors teammates attended the bash. Things must have gone late into the night because the team cancelled the planned practice for 11am on Tuesday.

Special guests included E-40, Paramore  and Lecrae. Curry himself took a turn on the mic and belted out a few bars.

Based on the videos from the party, it appears Curry may have gotten a small yacht for a present.

Don't feel bad that you weren't invited. There were enough videos posted on Instagram Stories by Steph, his wife Ayesha, his sister Sydel, his brother Seth and E-40, among others. Check out some of the best here:

Counting down top plays of Steph Curry's career before 30th birthday -- No. 2

Counting down top plays of Steph Curry's career before 30th birthday -- No. 2

Programming note: In the lead up to Stephen Curry's 30th birthday on March 14th, we will be unveiling the top plays of his historic career. Check back Wednesday for the No. 1.

Curry No. 2: Epic 35-foot game-winner in OT vs Thunder on Feb. 27, 2016

The Warriors are locked in an epic battle against an Oklahoma City team featuring Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and it looks bad when Curry leaves in the third quarter after rolling his left ankle.

He not only returns but also conquers, scoring 46 points, including 12 3-pointers, punctuated by pulling up from 35 feet to sink the game-winner in OT. It is the biggest shot of the regular season.

[RELATED: Counting down top plays of Steph Curry's career before 30th birthday -- No. 3]