Giants spring training Day 36: Belt's crazy streak continues


Giants spring training Day 36: Belt's crazy streak continues

SCOTTSDALE — Brandon Belt was hitless in his first seven at-bats at Salt River Fields, home of the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks. In the four years since, he has made this place look like a little league park.

Belt was 3 for 3 on Wednesday, homering twice and lining a double through the shift. In his last eight games at Salt River, a gorgeous spring facility built near the Talking Stick Resort, Belt is 20 for 28 with seven homers, four doubles, a triple and 15 RBI.

Again: 20 for 28. Seven homers. Four doubles. A triple. Fifteen runs driven in. No wonder he joked earlier this week — after a 4 for 4 day here — that he would fly down to take batting practice at Salt River anytime he slumped during the regular season.

“Ideally you like to start peaking toward the end of spring,” Belt said Wednesday. “It’s a matter of trying to be as consistent as possible. I feel great up there no matter who is pitching. I feel dangerous every time … but it’s important to keep in mind that it’s spring training.”

Belt hit both homers off of lefty Chris Ray. The double came off lefty Wesley Wright. That continues a trend that has shown up off and on during Belt’s career, including the last two months of last season. At times, he crushes lefties.

There is one, a certain Cy Young winner down in Los Angeles, who has given Belt fits. Asked about Clayton Kershaw on Wednesday, Belt was coy, and somewhat serious. 

“I’m working on that,” he said, explaining that he’s learning more about himself as a hitter and he’ll work to have a better approach against Kershaw. 

The secret might be a simple one: Just find a way for the Giants to face the Dodgers at Salt River.

ICYMI: From this morning, Hunter Pence talked about his spring. And from this afternoon, Matt Cain on his latest outing and his spring. Manager Bruce Bochy said Cain might make his next start in minor league camp so that the staff can monitor his workload. If he comes out of that one OK, he’ll be ready for the regular season. Just in case, the Giants have Chris Heston pitching on Cain’s days so he’s lined up as a backup.  

FAMILIAR FACE: Tim Hudson is here for a few days, and he knew exactly what he wanted to do when he arrived. 

TIME OFF: Buster Posey didn’t play in either game Tuesday and he was off today, but Bochy said he’s fine. It was a planned 48 hours off for the catcher. Posey isn’t going to end up getting a lot of at-bats this spring, but that doesn’t matter much.

“I don’t think he needs that many,” Bochy said. “He’s swinging well. It’s much more important that we have him fresh when we leave here.” 

HIGHLIGHT REEL: Ehire Adrianza made a slick play in the first, going deep into the hole and firing a strike to third to erase a runner who had been on second. In the sixth, Adrianza made a diving stop up the middle and popped up to throw Nick Ahmed out. He’s hitting .333 this spring. I think he has done enough to be in Milwaukee on Opening Day. 

Adrianza was one-upped in the eighth by minor league utility man Ali Castillo. He laid out for a hard grounder, faked a throw to first, and then laid out again to tag a runner from third who had strayed too far off the bag. Bochy said he had heard quite a bit about Castillo and he turned to Ron Wotus in the eighth and said he hoped to see the kid get a chance to make a play. The very next pitch led to the play that had the crowd buzzing.  

LIGHTER SIDE: Somebody help Kaskade. But more importantly, if you work for the Giants and you’re reading this, find a way to get him as the Friday Night DJ sometime.  

QUOTABLE: "For it to work out -- I don't think we expected it to work out that good -- for it to work out the way it did, that was fun, that was exciting. We're kind of looking around like, alright, we can do some damage this year." -- Matt Duffy, on my podcast, on the lineup's first night together. The podcast is streaming here and can be found on iTunes here (along with Brandon Crawford and George Kontos podcasts). 

How Giants prospects acquired at MLB trade deadline played this season

How Giants prospects acquired at MLB trade deadline played this season

There are just nine games left in the Giants' 2019 season. Manager Bruce Bochy already earned his 2,000th win. Mike Yastrzemski already had his magical moment at Fenway Park. 

What's left in the season is cherishing every game Bochy writes the lineup card and perhaps Madison Bumgarner's last days as a Giant, among others. 

As we look back at the most memorable moments from the season, the most important for the future could be several calls president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi made during the July 31 MLB trade deadline. In his first year calling the shots for the Giants, Zaidi might have made all the right moves. 

Let's look back at all the prospects the Giants acquired at the trade deadline and how they fit into the future. 

Mauricio Dubon, 2B/SS

This seems like a rare win-win trade for both sides.

Dubon, 25, is the future at either second base or shortstop for the Giants. Drew Pomeranz has a 2.42 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings for the Brewers, who enter Thursday with a one-game lead for the second NL wild-card spot. Ray Black also has been a formidable option out of Milwaukee's bullpen.

With Dubon's age and the fact he's under team control, the Giants are the real winners here. Through 19 games with the Giants, Dubon is batting .284 with three homers, four doubles and an .802 OPS. Before joining the Giants, Dubon hit .323 with four homers and an .876 OPS over 25 games in Triple-A for the Sacramento River Cats.

He's listed at just 160 pounds, but Dubon has flashed some power, has great baseball instincts and could be a future Gold Glover.

Tristan Beck, RHP

No matter how long Zaidi leads the Giants' front office, one of his greatest accomplishments will be getting rid of Mark Melancon's contract.

The veteran reliever still was owed nearly $20 million of his four-year, $62 million contract. That now belongs to the Braves. The Giants traded Melancon to Atlanta at the deadline for pitchers Tristan Beck and Dan Winkler. 

Beck, 23, is the prospect in the deal and he's an interesting one. The former Stanford star struggled at the start of his minor league career, but turned it around after joining the San Jose Giants in High A. He went 3-2 with a 2.27 ERA and 1.29 WHIP over six starts. 

Now, Beck joins River Cats pitching coach Steve Kline in the Arizona Fall League. If he keeps progressing, he could be a quick riser through the farm system.

Dan Winkler, RHP

Winkler, 29, pitched 27 games out of the bullpen for the Braves this season. He went 3-1 with a 4.98 ERA and 1.34 WHIP with Atlanta prior to the trade. 

The veteran reliever spent the rest of the season in Sacramento where he had a 0.64 ERA in 12 appearances out of the 'pen. Winkler is arbitration-eligible this offseason and likely doesn't have a long-term future in San Francisco. 

Jaylin Davis, OF

The Giants might have fleeced the Twins when they traded reliever Sam Dyson to Minnesota.

Dyson was 4-1 with a 2.47 ERA in 49 appearances for the Giants when they shipped him off. He has dealt with multiple bicep injuries since joining the Twins and had a 7.15 ERA in 12 appearances on his new team. 

Davis, 25, was slugging his way through the minors with 25 homers between Double-A and Triple-A when the Giants acquired him. He added another 10 with the River Cats in only 27 games. 

In eight games with the Giants, Davis is yet to knock one over the fence and is batting just .130. He has shown off his athleticism with his speed and arm in the outfield, but can he catch up to major-league velocity? 

That's a question the Giants will have to answer. 

Kai-Wei Teng, RHP

Teng, 20, is a big starting pitcher at 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds. He throws from a 3/4-arm angle and had a dominant season this year. 

Teng went 7-0 with a 1.58 ERA between two Class A teams. After joining the Augusta GreenJackets, he struck out 39 batters in 29 innings and opposing batters hit just .160 off him. 

At his young age, Teng will be an interesting prospect to keep track of next season. 

Prelander Berroa, RHP

Berroa only is 19 years old and is extremely unpolished. While he's only 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, he sits in the mid-90s and has touched 98 mph. 

As the third piece of a trade, Berroa is a low-risk-high-reward prospect.

Joe McCarthy, 1B/OF

The Giants acquired McCarthy from the Rays for Jacob Lopez, their 26th-round pick from the 2018 draft. McCarthy was the Rays' No. 28 prospect at the time. 

McCarthy, 25, struggled with Sacramento, batting .165 in 24 games. He doesn't seem to have too much of a future with San Francisco.

How Bruce Bochy uses Madison Bumgarner for advice when he's not starting


How Bruce Bochy uses Madison Bumgarner for advice when he's not starting

ATLANTA -- In the bottom of the ninth inning last Wednesday, the Giants got a walk and a single off then-Pirates closer Felipe Vasquez, inviting their fans back into the game as they attempted an unlikely comeback. As those remaining stood and cheered, Madison Bumgarner emerged on the top step of the dugout and stood to Bruce Bochy's right. 

Bochy turned to Bumgarner and had a quick conversation, and then both men focused their attention back to the field. As Austin Slater walked up for a pinch-hit appearance, the two spoke again. Bumgarner stood next to Bochy, a hoodie on, throughout the ninth, ending the conversation only a few seconds before the rally fell short. 

Part of the discussion was exactly what you might imagine. 

"It was, 'Listen, this guy throws really hard and has great stuff ... but you know I'm a great matchup for him,'" Bochy recalled, smiling. 

Bumgarner actually might have been as good a matchup as Bochy had for Vasquez. He once drew a walk off Aroldis Chapman, another lefty closer with similar stuff, and this season has two walks in two pinch-hit plate appearances. But most of the conversation wasn't about giving Bumgarner a shot. The two discussed Bochy's pinch-hit options, and as he has done often over the years, Bochy used his ace's advice as part of his decision-making process.

Bumgarner is famous in the clubhouse for the way he can read swings during a game. While his process has changed a bit over the years, he's still pretty old-school for the most part, watching where a hitter sets up in the box, the way he places his hands, and how he approaches different pitches. That has instructed the majority of Bumgarner's game planning over the years, and Bochy has taken advantage. 

"He's got a good feel for the game, he really does," Bochy said. "He watches the game and studies the game. He has a great feel. There's been a couple of times this year when he gets by me and we're talking strategy or a move or possibly who to use as a pinch-hitter. A couple of times I've used his advice. It's great because if it doesn't work, I can get on him."

Bochy used Bumgarner with Vasquez on the mound, asking him which right-handers on the bench he felt were the best matchup. It's a process that Bumgarner said started later in his career. He was curious to know what Bochy was thinking during games he wasn't starting. 

"I'd seen a lot of moves he made early in my career and they always seemed to work," Bumgarner said. "Granted, you've got to have the players to do that, too, but when I got comfortable enough with him and he made a move, I would ask him about it. If I was thinking something else or I was thinking the same thing, I would just ask him how he decided to do what he did. He would walk me through it and it helped me learn a lot about this game, also."

Asked how often he feels his advice has pushed Bochy in a new direction, Bumgarner paused for a moment and then frowned. 

"You know, it has, but I'm pretty sure it's whenever I say whatever he's already thinking," Bumgarner said. "A lot of times he'll ask me what I would do here, but most of the time he does the same thing that I say. But I think the only reason for that is that's what he was going to do anyway."

Coach Bumgarner has been a resource for Bochy, and the manager thought Bumgarner would be "great at it" if he ever wanted to coach or manage.

"You look at how he prepares for his games, reads hitters -- he can assimilate information very well," Bochy said.

Don't hold your breath waiting for Bumgarner on the top step, though. A large part of Bochy's job is briefing the media every day, and there's no chance Bumgarner would sign up for that gig. 

[RELATED: MadBum's road struggles continue before ace's free agency]

Instead, he'll enjoy his final week as an extra set of eyes for Bochy, trying to find an edge even on days when he's not starting. Bochy cherishes the interaction, in part because he knows what's usually coming at some point. He laughed when asked what kind of advice Bumgarner gave him as they went over options against Vasquez. 

"He said, 'I think you might want me to pinch-hit here,'" Bochy said.