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Brandon Belt, on parole?


All spring I was sure Bruce Bochy, Brian Sabean and the rest of the BRASS would choose Brett Pill over “freeing” Brandon Belt (the Giants really need more names that start with “B”).

When I saw Pill play third on Saturday against the Cincinnati Reds (pictured, right), I might’ve misread things. I saw the Giants forcing Pill to learn a new position in less than a month’s time as proof of their own desperate desire to keep his right-handed, taking-pitches-is-for-wusses bat in the lineup.

Now it looks like they decided that unless Pill was capable of miracles at a new position, he’s expendable. Belt, on the other hand, may finally be freed … sort of. From Hank Schulman:

Manager Bruce Bochy dropped his strongest hint yet that Brandon Belt would be the Giants opening day first baseman, with Aubrey Huff shifting to left field.

Bochy repeatedly stressed that that all decisions are in pencil until at least Wednesday’s final roster cuts. But when asked if Belt will be at first base for the regular-season opener against Arizona on Friday, he did nothing do dispel the notion.

“He’s been getting most of the playing time there,’’ Bochy said. “We’ve said we’d put the bats out there that are swinging well.”

That last part’s key. It sounds like Belt played his way back into the Giants’ good graces this spring, but Bochy’s playlist is ever-changing. The Giants didn’t add any offensive stars between the 2011 season and now, but they’re significantly deeper than they were last year.

2011 dead weight: Pat Burrell (he was comfortable heading into 2011, about ready to call it a career anyway, then he got hurt and had no choice); Mark DeRosa (also comfortable since he’s made money and will have a job as a TV analyst as long as he wants one); Miguel Tejada (delusional enough to convince Sabean that he still had anything left); Orlando Cabrera (not O-Cab’s fault the Giants couldn’t tell he was done back when they dealt Thomas Neal for him); Jeff Keppinger (made Eeyore seem like Pablo Sandoval); Aaron Rowand (a No. 1 and No. 2 hitter — based on batting stance toilet humor only, not skill).

2012 dead weight: Besides Aubrey Huff, every position player has a reason (impending free agency, a desire to finally become an everyday player, etc.) to be hungry. And no, that wasn’t a joke about Sandoval.

Competition will be the order of the year, which should please Bochy greatly. It also means Belt isn’t guaranteed a starting job for months on end (or a spot on the Opening Day roster, for that matter), but what did you expect? The final call isn’t Bochy’s, anyway. The BRASS may be arguing about this into the early morning hours as I write this, with Bochy now a Belt believer and hoping to convince Sabean that the Toddler Giraffe shouldn’t start the season in Fresno.

During an appearance on 95.7 “The Game” with Brandon Tierney and Eric Davis on Tuesday, Sabean didn’t sound especially high on Belt:

“He doesn’t have a track record in the big leagues. He, of course, was rushed into action last year … in fairness to him, he actually looked like he was turning the corner before he got hit by a pitch and got knocked out of the big leagues with the injury. One of the things we’re experimenting with is if he was the first baseman to start the season, could Huff do the lion’s share of the work in left field and how that would change the lineup, but one of the things we do have to get better at is being a lockdown offensive team against right-handed pitching. But having said that, you don’t want to be exposed against any lefties that you may face and there are some tough lefties in the National League.”

What does it all mean? Pill, Belt, or both? What about Buster Posey’s backup(s) — Hector Sanchez, Eli Whiteside or Chris Stewart, or two of the three? We’ll find out on before Wednesday’s game, the last Spring Training game of the year.

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