Following last Sunday’s loss to the Phillies, Brandon Belt intimated the causes of his plate issues to the Chronicle’s Henry Schulman. Though most spectators were searching frantically for physical defects, Belt diverted search efforts to his mind, explaining his issues were mostly mental.
“Some of that stuff creeps into your mind and you put pressure on yourself,” Belt said. “I’ve got to battle to keep those thoughts out of my head and go play baseball. That’s what I’m trying to do right now.”
This statement came of no surprise to those who follow the team closely. In fact, it merely confirmed their logic. Thus, it seemed reasonable to assume, as Carl Steward of the Mercury News did, that Belt was lacking confidence.
Not so, said Brandon Belt in a MLBlog on Tuesday.
“The media talks about my body language – that it ‘is pitiful to the point of pathetic,’ as someone put it,” Belt wrote. “Look at me when I’m going well. I look the same. It goes back to the whole awkward thing. I’m awkward. I slump my shoulders. I walk with my head down. That’s how I’ve always been. But now that I’m going bad, people are reading all kinds of things into it.”
This response drew applause from fans, who praised Belt for defending himself. Unfortunately, his defense did not draw the same response from his manager Bruce Bochy.
On 95.7 “The Game” this morning, Bochy discussed Belt’s comments and body language.
“These guys know, I don’t care if you strike out, if we make a mistake, I want to wash it off and put it behind us,” Bochy said. “Let’s hold our heads up and carry ourselves like we’re going to get them next time. That (Belt’s comments following the Phillies loss) was a little bit of ‘Woe is me.’ You can’t carry yourself like that because you’re going to compound the problem and carry it into the next game.”
“This is a humbling game,” he continued. “But at the same time, you’ve got to put your big boy pants on and go out there and keep going, keep pushing.”
Whatever is read into these comments, it is clear that Bochy is not as dismissive of Belt’s body language as Belt is. To refer to a player as needing to put “big boy pants on” suggests Bochy is growing weary of Belt’s struggles. Of course, Belt’s recent benching reinforces this idea.
When asked about moving Pablo to first, Bochy said his hand was “forced,” citing Belt’s confidence and poor at-bats.
“You could tell he was not going up there with a little swagger/confidence, whatever you want to call it,” Bochy explained. “He was feeling for the ball. He’s a big man, and he’s got to let the bat go. If you strike out, fine, but let’s go out there swinging, and swing with authority.”
Bochy ended the discussion as one might expect: By empathetically supporting Belt. Bochy noted Belt has learned “how important (body language) is to (his) success.” As a result, he says Belt been carrying himself differently in the clubhouse.
Ultimately, though, Bochy’s final comment was reminiscent of those unabashed Belt apologists: It was a statement of hope, not certainty.
“This kid can hit,” said Bochy. “He IS our first baseman with Pablo down. If we’re forced, you have to do something there. I’m just hoping, everyday, it’s one at-bat (that will get him going).”
The (Immediate) Future of First Base
It would appear, for the short-term at least, first base belongs to Belt. In his pre-game press conference, Bochy intimated that options are limited:
–Aubrey Huff is currently being evaluated by the training staff. Bochy said Huff may need another rehab assignment. Huff has been dealing with knee tendonitis.
–Hector Sanchez is scheduled for a rehab assignment over the weekend, during which time he’ll play both catcher and first base.
–Pablo Sandoval is dealing with a hamstring strain. He’ll be reevaluated on Friday.
–Buster Posey is could be an option, but Whiteside’s bat is certainly not an upgrade over Belt’s. The Giants could recall Brett Pill, but this would likely require placing Sandoval on the disabled list.