Still feeling concussion symptoms, Brandon Belt discusses his future


Still feeling concussion symptoms, Brandon Belt discusses his future

SAN FRANCISCO — On the night that yet another season spiraled out of his hands, Brandon Belt had an eerily prescient conversation with his hitting coach. Belt was on pace to approach 30 homers. A day earlier, he had tied his career-high by crushing his 18th. Hensley Meulens congratulated him and noted that he would easily surpass his previous best. 

“Yeah,” Belt joked, “Unless I get a season-ending injury or something.”

A few hours later, Arizona Diamondbacks rookie Anthony Banda lost command of a curveball and drilled Belt on the side of the helmet. The first baseman went down right away. He hasn’t played since. 

Belt, in a phone interview with NBC Sports Bay Area, acknowledged the obvious: His season almost certainly ended on August 4. He feels better with each passing day, but he is still dealing with lingering problems with his vestibular system and vision. 

The Giants have just 20 games left and Belt is simply running out of time. This was Belt’s fourth documented concussion in the last eight years and third in the last four seasons, but he is not fearful about his future. It’s the opposite, actually. Belt is adamant that he will return next season at 100 percent. 

“There are always going to be some questions about whether this has some long term effects, and hopefully it doesn’t,” Belt said. “But right now it’s not going to keep me from playing baseball. In the long run, I want to make sure I’m one-hundred-thousand percent ready to go when the season starts next year. That’s the long term outlook, and if I can get back this season it’s a bonus.”

Privately, Giants officials have acknowledged for several days that they do not expect Belt to return this season. Belt has been doing light rehab work, but doctors have not yet cleared him for baseball activities. He has more appointments in the coming days, but if his vision issues do not improve this week, the situation will become official. 

“You’re getting close to a point of no return, I guess,” he said. 

Belt has been through this before, with bad luck costing him chunks of two seasons. He missed 46 games in 2014 after getting hit by a Marco Scutaro throw in batting practice. The next year, Belt hit his head against an infielder’s knee while diving back into second. That September concussion ended his season. 

This latest concussion was another fluke, but in an odd way, that was encouraging. Belt was at first concerned about his future, but doctors assured him that he would recover like he has the previous three times. 

“It’s not like I’m repeatedly banging my head against something,” Belt said. “If that was the case, it might affect me more in the long term. This is more sporadic and the hits aren’t too terrible. Once I get over these concussions, they tell me that I won’t have to worry about them anymore.”

Belt did not have any setbacks after recovering from his previous concussions. He said the first couple of weeks this time were pretty rough, but all of the symptoms have dissipated except the vision issues. Joe Panik dealt with those last season and fully recovered. With the last two concussions, it took Belt eight weeks to get fully healthy.

“It’s not that I feel terrible, but it just takes a while to get this stuff to go away,” Belt said. “I wish it didn’t take me as long, but it does. I don’t know how long it’s going to take, but it’s one of those things you can’t rush. This is not something that you can be just 95 percent on.”

As he waits to get back to 100 percent, Belt has tried to find ways to add to a schedule that’s usually filled with long plate appearances and scoops at first base. He was a vocal supporter of his hometown Lufkin Little League during their run through the Little League World Series. He has joined with fellow Texas residents Hunter Pence and Mark Melancon to offer support after Hurricane Harvey. Most of Belt’s hours are spent playing with his young son, Greyson, and watching the team he still leads in homers.  

"I'm really invested in these games," Belt said. "I watched Joe this past week and what he did was super impressive. Being at home is different, but watching them passes three hours every day."

Giants vs. Dodgers lineups: Shaun Anderson opposes Clayton Kershaw

Giants vs. Dodgers lineups: Shaun Anderson opposes Clayton Kershaw

On Monday, Tyler Beede got a win in his first-ever start against the Dodgers. On Tuesday, Giants rookie right-hander Shaun Anderson will attempt to do the same.

Anderson (2-1, 3.97 ERA) enters Tuesday's start at Dodger Stadium on a roll. He's coming off three consecutive outings in which he went at least six innings and gave up no more than three runs, and he's picked up two victories over that span.

Anderson will face a significant challenge in his first-ever start at Chavez Ravine, not just in the formidable Dodgers' lineup, but in Giants' nemesis Clayton Kershaw. While Kershaw (6-1, 3.13 ERA) took his first loss of the season on June 7 against the Giants, he's dominated San Francisco throughout his career, and enters Tuesday's start with a 22-11 record against the Giants with a 1.72 ERA over 330 1/3 innings.

[RELATED: Beede relieved to get first big league win against Dodgers]

First pitch for Dodgers vs. Giants is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. PT with pregame coverage beginning at 6 p.m. You can follow all the action on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming online and on the MyTeams app.

San Francisco Giants(31-39)
Donovan Solano, 2B
Brandon Belt, LF
Tyler Austin, 1B
Buster Posey, C
Evan Longoria, 3B
Kevin Pillar, RF
Brandon Crawford, SS
Steven Duggar, CF
Shaun Anderson, RHP (2-1, 3.97 ERA)

Los Angeles Dodgers (48-25)
Joc Pederson. LF
Alex Verdugo, CF
Justin Turner, 3B
Cody Bellinger, RF
Max Muncy, 2B
Matt Beaty, 1B
Chris Taylor, SS
Austin Barnes, C
Clayton Kershaw, LHP (6-1, 3.13 ERA)

What can Giants get in Madison Bumgarner trade? Tim Kurkjian answers

What can Giants get in Madison Bumgarner trade? Tim Kurkjian answers

Every Madison Bumgarner start can be his last as a Giant. 

The July 31 MLB trade deadline is over a month away, but Bumgarner could be gone before we know it. Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi is sure to be taking and making calls regarding his team's ace. Those calls should start with the New York Yankees, ESPN MLB analyst Tim Kurkjian says. 

"The Yankees have to be at the top of that list," Kurkjian said Tuesday on KNBR. "Their lineup is ridiculously productive when it comes to hitting the ball out of the ballpark. But I still think they're one really good starting pitcher short of going into October as the team to beat. ... The question is, how much are they willing to give up?"

One Yankee the Giants should covet could be more available than ever. Clint Frazier, 24, was demoted to Triple-A on Sunday to make room for veteran slugger Edwin Encarnacion, despite Frazier proving he clearly belongs in a major league lineup. Through 53 games this year, Frazier is batting .283 with 11 home runs and a .513 slugging percentage. 

Frazier is the exact kind of player the Giants should be pursuing. He struggles on defense and has received ample criticism this year for his play in the outfield, but he's a young, right-handed power bat that can actually hit the ball over the wall at Oracle Park. Frazier would also be under team control through 2024.

It won't be that easy to acquire him, however.

"I had an executive tell me the other day, 'There's no way the Yankees would trade Frazier even straight up for Bumgarner.' I think the Giants would need Frazier and at least another top prospect before they're gonna move Bumgarner, even in a rental situation," Kurkjian said. 

The Yankees still value Frazier even though there might not be room for him on a star-studded roster. On the other hand, the Giants want to make sure they get the best return possible for a team legend despite the fact he'll be a free agent at the end of the season. 

"How many teams are going to be willing to give up a tremendous amount for a two-month rental who's not the best he's ever been?" Kurkjian said. 

Bumgarner is 3-6 with a 3.87 ERA this season. That doesn't tell the whole story, though. His ERA has lowered every month so far. In March/April he posted a 4.30 ERA in six starts; in May he had a 3.72 ERA in six more starts and he has a 3.32 ERA through three starts in June.

The big left-hander has seen his fastball velocity rise as well. Bumgarner's average fastball velocity of 92.2 mph also is his highest since 2015, according to Brooks Baseball.

Oh, and there's that whole playoffs thing, too. 

[RELATED: History shows teams shouldn't wait to trade for MadBum]

The Yankees need Bumgarner to win another ring. The Giants need Frazier for the ball to go over the wall.

Let's make a deal.