Brandon Belt's relationship with Bruce Bochy, Giants had memorable start

Brandon Belt's relationship with Bruce Bochy, Giants had memorable start

SAN FRANCISCO -- At times, the infamous Belt Wars have even been fought within the clubhouse. 

It took Brandon Belt longer than he probably would have liked to become entrenched as a full-time starter at first base, with Aubrey Huff and Brett Pill pulling away plenty of at-bats early in his career. Then there were the days Belt would find himself in the outfield, or sitting entirely as Buster Posey got the nod against a tough lefty. 

But in his ninth season, things have flipped. Belt has struggled at times and the Giants have gone younger in other spots, but he has hit in the middle of the lineup most of the year, gotten a long look as a leadoff hitter, and is one game from crossing the 600-plate appearance threshold. 

Belt has become a trusted veteran for Bruce Bochy, the only manager he has ever known. In Part II of this series that kicked off yesterday with Pablo Sandoval, Belt talks about the man who has put him in the game 1,078 times:  

NBC Sports Bay Area: Do you remember the first time you met Bochy and your first impression of him? 
Brandon Belt: "I feel like I probably didn't meet him until I got to spring training. I think the first time I met him was when I made it to spring training in 2011. I think at first you just kind of think that he's super-serious, which he is -- he's serious about his job and he's a competitor -- but I think once you get to know him more you understand that he likes to keep it light sometimes, too, and he jokes around.

The first meeting is like, alright, I've got to be on my Ps and Qs around this guy. But I think once you're around him a little bit that changes."

How has your relationship with Bochy evolved over the years? 
"With that first impression you have, it's one of those things where you kind of maybe don't go around him so much. I think that wasn't just him, that was the way the locker room was back then. Now I feel like I can go in and talk to him at any point in time. That came pretty quickly. Even so, at first you're like, alright, mind my own business and go out there and do my job. Now if I have anything to talk to him about, you go and talk to him about it, and he can come to me and talk to me about anything.

I definitely think there's a close relationship there. I think it was maybe three years in, 2013 or 2014. I think it was just me. He's always been available, it was just that I got to the point where I was alright going in there and talking with him about anything."

What has made him such a successful manager?
"For one, he forms relationships with his players. He's not just there kind of writing names down on the lineup card. He really forms relationships with this person, cares about the person, and I think that's why players want to do well for him. Secondly, for me, he just kind of demanded the best out of me. I've been fortunate enough to have a lot of good coaches and managers throughout my career and he's no different. If you take one of those guys out I don't know if I'm where I am today.

I think that continued when I got to the big league level. He wanted the best out of me and kind of forces you to do that. I think that's why he's had such success with the teams he's had over the past 25 years." 

Do you have a favorite memory with Bochy? 
"Obviously the thing that sticks out in my head is getting called up, when he asked me if I wanted a beer. It seems so small in the moment but he actually cares what people are going through and understands that it's an emotional time for me. He wanted to form that relationship. I think that's what sticks out for me.

"Oh, also he's told me to put on my Big Boy Pants. He's told me that three or four times."

Have there been times when you didn't see eye to eye? 
"I think that's just a given when you're around people constantly. You're going to have disagreements. I think I've been taken out of games before or not played in certain games when I really wanted to. I'm a competitor, I want to be out there. He sees differently and he's trying to put the best lineup out there to win a game. You take it a little personal at times but in the end, it's not something you hold a grudge over. You understand that both sides are going out there and doing the best they can to win a baseball game.

I think when you're around each other for a long time you're going to have disagreements with just about anybody." 

[RELATED: Giants honor Bochy with honor salute before final flight]

What's something fans don't know about him?
"He's a really generous guy. He does a lot of charity work. And he definitely cares about his players. He's a funny guy who likes to keep it light. I think a lot of fans only see the serious side of him. He's one of the biggest competitors you'd ever meet, and I think that's helped him have success on the field." 

Do you think he will manage again?
"I don't know if he's going to manage again but I just don't think a guy like him can completely separate himself from the game. I think he's going to be around in some capacity. I just don't know if it will be managing." 

Giants add Alyssa Nakken to Gabe Kapler's 13-person coaching staff

Giants add Alyssa Nakken to Gabe Kapler's 13-person coaching staff

Gabe Kapler spent most of his first month with the Giants interviewing candidates for his ideal coaching staff.

When the final pieces were put into place Thursday afternoon, it became even more clear that the Giants are going with a group that's unlike anything the game has seen before. 

The organization announced that Mark Hallberg and Alyssa Nakken are joining Kapler's staff as Major League Assistant Coaches, giving the Giants 13 coaches in all, including Nakken, who is the first woman to hold a coaching position on a big-league staff. In a statement, Kapler said Hallberg and Nakken will "focus their talents on helping to build a winning culture in the clubhouse."

"In every organization, environment affects performance, and baseball clubhouses are no different," Kapler said. "That's why in addition to assisting the rest of the coaching staff on the field, Mark and Alyssa will focus on fostering a clubhouse culture that promotes high performance through, among other attributes, a deep sense of collaboration and team."

Long before Kapler arrived, Giants officials had grown concerned about the energy in a clubhouse that has suffered through three straight losing seasons. The Giants plan to make that a focus in spring training, and they're using their resources toward that end. You are only allowed to have seven uniformed coaches in the dugout, but there is no limit on how many you can pay in general, or how many can work with players between games.

The two new hires give the Giants 12 big league coaches who were not on Bruce Bochy's staff. The lone holdover is Ron Wotus, who will remain as third-base coach. 

Nakken played softball at Sacramento State, worked at USF, and got degrees from both schools. She joined the Giants as an intern in 2014 and has done work related to the amateur draft and player development. 

[RELATED: Richardson, Ortiz join Gabe Kapler's staff]

Hallberg was the manager in Salem-Keizer in 2019 and was their fundamentals coach in 2018. He played his college ball at Florida State with Buster Posey and was a ninth-round pick by the Diamondbacks in 2007. The 34-year-old played in the minors for five seasons before becoming a coach in the Cape Cod League. 

Giants sign pitcher Drew Smyly to one-year contract, add rotation depth

Giants sign pitcher Drew Smyly to one-year contract, add rotation depth

Last January, the Giants signed lefties Derek Holland and Drew Pomeranz to one-year contracts, with mixed results. This year, Drew Smyly is the lefty joining the rotation mix. 

The Giants announced Thursday that they've signed Smyly to a one-year, $4 million big league contract. Right-hander Trevor Oaks, claimed from the Kansas City Royals earlier this offseason, was DFA'd to clear a 40-man roster spot. Smyly can make an additional $3 million on bonuses tied to starting pitching and $1 million in reliever bonuses. He'll get a $250,000 bonus if he's on the opening day roster.

Smyly, 30, spent last season with Gabe Kapler's Philadelphia Phillies, posting a 4.45 ERA in 12 starts but averaging more than a strikeout per inning. He'll immediately join a crowded race to be in the Opening Day starting rotation, and he has a leg up simply because of the arm he throws with. The Giants are extremely right-handed on the roster, and Smyly joins Tyler Anderson as lefties who could help break up Jeff Samardzija, Johnny Cueto, Kevin Gausman, Tyler Beede, Logan Webb and others. Anderson currently is rehabbing from a knee injury. 

Smyly has bounced around the American League for most of his career, and he put up good numbers before Tommy John surgery derailed him in 2017. Smyly had a 3.53 ERA in three years in Detroit and a 3.93 ERA in three seasons with the Rays. He was a good enough young pitcher that at one point he was included in a deal for David Price, but Smyly has struggled to stay in a rotation since having elbow surgery. 

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Smyly didn't pitch in the big leagues in 2017 or 2018 and had 13 rocky appearances for the Texas Rangers in 2019. He was released by the Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers before catching on in Philadelphia, where he was a solid rotation piece down the stretch and posted a 3.65 ERA in five September starts.

The Giants had been looking for left-handed help, and Smyly should find himself with the same opportunity Pomeranz and Holland were given last year. Both started the season in the rotation and eventually ended up in the bullpen. Pomeranz turned into a nice trade chip, bringing Mauricio Dubon to San Francisco at the deadline.