Aaron Rodgers

Brandon Belt decision signifies new expectations

A little after midnight last night, while I was slaving away on my latest Warriors post about Keith Smart, Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry, John Shea dropped a little bomb on Twitter about the Giants’ top prospect a few hours after he went 1-for-3 against the A’s.

Mr. Shea, you caused a little bit of a stir.

Since Shea — unlike one of his coworkers — isn’t in the business of throwing out ideas like the Giants are contemplating eating the rest of Barry Zito’s contract, it’s hard not to believe his report. And in believing Shea, one thing becomes clear: the World Series changed the Giants in a way I never thought it would.

Human nature, along with the way the Giants handled Buster Posey last season, told us Belt was going to start the year in Fresno. The Giants have already won a World Series, they’ve already maxed out on season ticket sales, why not save a year of Belt’s service time by keeping him in Triple-A for a week and a half or so? But instead of the World Series taking the pressure off, this news makes it clear the Giants are more focused than ever on winning than penny-pinching, and that their plan is a combination of building for the future with youth and capitalizing now on a young pitching staff that already proved its mettle (and then some) in the playoffs.

This is great news for almost everyone. Bruce Bochy has been talked about as the guy who pushed hardest for Belt’s inclusion on the Opening Day roster behind closed doors. The pitchers may want to try to keep the ball on the ground a little more than usual with Aubrey Huff in right field and Pat Burrell in left, but the extra run production Belt could provide more than makes up for the occasional double down the line by the opposition.

The only guys who can’t consider Belt’s ascendancy “great news” are the trio of Aaron Rowand, Travis Ishikawa and Nate Schierholtz. Schierholtz is the best defender of the group and produced more than Rowand and Ishikawa in Spring Training, capping his preseason with a home run last night. Rowand would be released without thought if it weren’t for the money left on his contract, since Ishikawa’s a better pinch-hitting option.

However, as Brian Sabean said, “Everybody is pulling for Row,” so the smart money has Ishikawa saying good-bye after tonight’s final game of the Bay Bridge Series. Of course, the smart money (well, my money, anyway) just a few weeks ago was on Belt starting the year in Triple-A, so who knows what this new version of the Giants will decide.

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