As I write this in the press box, I can see Jon Miller interviewing Bruce Bochy behind the cage. Miller’s short-sleeve shirt is untucked, with the top two buttons (at least) unbuttoned. (Pictured to the right … my apologies for the resolution, my phone’s camera isn’t the best when you zoom in all the way.) He’s also wearing shorts and what looks like a pair of sports sandals (Tevas?). It’s that kind of night at AT&T Park.
It’s not just a beautiful night after one of those classic post-summer summery days in San Francisco, when the wind dies down and the temperature threatens 80 degrees. It’s also a game where both the Giants and the Rockies are playing out the string, and you can tell.
Instead of a more regimented dugout interview session with Bruce Bochy, he chatted about a wide variety of topics to whomever was close enough to listen, including a little bit about Brandon Belt. Bochy mentioned how Minor League success is great, but the Majors is a whole different league, and compared Belt to another talented, power-hitting first baseman he managed at the beginning, Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez, according to Bochy, was terrible in the beginning.
I thought that was an interesting comparison, to put it mildly. If you look Gonzalez’s first season with the Padres in 2006 (under Bochy) as a 24-year-old, he started out hot (.393/.433/.607) through his first seven games. Then he struggled quite a bit, his splits sinking greatly (.224/.286/.318) through May 8 of that year.
There are a couple of differences to note between Gonzalez’s start under Bochy and Belt’s. First, Gonzalez played small parts of two seasons with the Rangers, amassing similar numbers to what he had on 5/8/06. Second, Gonzalez was allowed a chance to work through his troubles that year with the Padres, finishing with 631 PA and 24 HR and raising his splits to .304/.362/.500 by the end of the season.
The Padres also won the NL West with a record of 88-74 that season.
This isn’t to say Belt is the same player as Gonzalez. But I wish I knew the whole story from that ’06 season, and how Gonzalez kept getting chances to sort things out. Too few options behind him? Pressure from the general manager to go with the young stud prospect? The good news seems to be that Bochy must think of Belt as a pretty talented player to even throw him in the same conversation with Gonzalez. But even though Belt’s struggled to find a groove this year for any length of time, one of the things that will frustrate many Giants fans is this unanswered question: what would Belt have done this year if the Giants gave him 600 plate appearances, for better or worse?
One last start for Pat the Bat?
— One thing Bochy announced that had the beat writers scribbling in their notepads was that Pat Burrell will be in the starting lineup tomorrow. It was asked whether tomorrow would represent a swan song of sorts for Burrell, and Bochy quickly dismissed that idea. Even though he wasn’t able to contribute for much of 2011, I wouldn’t bet against the Giants signing Burrell to another Minor League deal and giving him an opportunity to make the team out of Spring Training if his foot’s okay.
— First time I’ve seen the Giants take BP in the shade this season. I’d be sad about the end of summer, except it means the weather around here’s finally nice.
— The last Madison Bumgarner start of the year, and even though Ryan Vogelsong has the best story, Bumgarner’s been my favorite starter to watch all season for several reasons. It doesn’t matter if he reaches .500 for the season (he enters tonight’s game with a 12-13 record); one of the things I’m looking forward to most in 2012 is seeing Bumgarner take over that No. 2 spot between Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain and thrive.
— Another guy to root for: Conor Gillaspie (pictured), who’s starting for the second time in his career tonight. The first start was back on June 7 for Gillaspie, whose MLB career started with seven plate appearances spread over eight games in 2008. Then his service time was put on hold for over two years until the Giants finally brought him back up earlier this year.
— And just because, here’s Pablo Sandoval taking a few hacks during BP, then inspecting his bat in true Pandoval fashion.