Bay Area Baseball

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April 22, 2013
Giants' Belt puts in early work, Dunston returns to the field

SAN FRANCISCO -- Brandon Belt isn't in the Giants' lineup for the second consecutive day -- Joaquin Arias starts at first base against a left-hander -- but that didn't make it a day off for Belt. Belt was out taking early swings on the field along with catcher Hector Sanchez under the close watch of manager Bruce Bochy, who said yesterday the two had talked about Belt's early hitting struggles and that he plans to give Belt some days off against upcoming lefties.

"When things aren't necessarily going well, sometimes you've just got to put in a little bit of extra work, figure some stuff out so you can get yourself back on the field," Belt said.

Bochy said it's common for players to get early work two or three times a homestand, but that he was out with hitting coach Hensley Meulens to help Belt fix some issues with his timing. Belt is 11-for-60 (.183) to start the year with three extra-base hits, all doubles.

Bochy said Belt's swing is OK mechanically but it seems like he's moving forward with his body too much before the swing. Bochy said Belt's body was noticeably quieter when he was tearing up Cactus League pitching in spring training.

"You do have a tendency when you're not getting your hits to go get the ball, and that's the worst thing you can do," Bochy said.

"He just needs to get back to relaxing and letting the swing do the work instead of the body."

Belt said it seems like "everybody's talking to me right now" about his hitting and he's trying to sort through the advice to find the fix and regain the comfort at the plate he had in spring.

"I'm not necessarily sure what gets me out of sync sometimes, or gets anybody out of sync sometimes, but like I said you've just got to kind of run through a lot of things and figure out the source and eliminate it," he said.

Bochy hypothesized on Sunday that flashing hitters' stats on the scoreboard during their at-bats can sometimes exacerbate the problem -- they see a low average and start thinking about getting hits instead of having good at-bats. Belt said he notices the numbers "every now and then."

"For the most part I think I've done a pretty good job of keeping it out of my head, but there's also a fine line involved there," Belt said.

"Sometimes you think you're having good at-bats, they're not falling in for you, so you kind of cross over that line into the territory of OK, I need to do anything I can to get hits here and that's the wrong approach to take," he said. "You have to just try to go out there and have good at-bats, and whatever happens, happens."

* First-base coach Roberto Kelly will miss the Diamondbacks series while attending a graduation in Panama. Shawon Dunston will coach first base for the Giants tonight.

Dunston, who played on this field for the final two seasons of his 18-year career in 2001-02, coached some first base in spring training, so Bochy doesn't anticipate it being a big deal -- though he joked it may be for Dunston.

"He's probably going to enjoy this," Bochy said. "Even though he's been helping us in spring training he gets to get on the field tonight. That's exciting. It's like your first game. He may not admit it, but I bet he's a little nervous."

* Ryan Vogelsong is still sporting a 5.89 ERA through his first three starts, but Bochy said he thought Vogelsong made some strides in his last start at Milwaukee, throwing seven innings and allowing three runs on five hits. Vogelsong took a no-decision in the Giants' 4-3 loss.

"His command I thought was pretty good last game," Bochy said. "He gave up three runs, but I liked the way he threw the ball. Looks like he's getting settled in and getting all his pitches working for him."

* Tonight marks the return of Cody Ross to AT&T Park, where there's a 2010 World Series banner hanging above the center-field scoreboard that might not be there if not for Ross' contributions during that postseason. Ross, the MVP of that year's NLCS, said during spring training he wasn't sure what kind of reception to expect his first time back in San Francisco. Here's guessing it'll be a friendly one.

-- Matt Kawahara

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About Bay Area Baseball

Matt KawaharaMatt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee’s sports staff in fall 2011.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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