Bochy: 'Zito can carry success into this year'
In 53 plate appearances against the Dodgers last season, Brandon Belt hit just .146 with no home runs and three RBI. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Brandon Belt didn’t mean to stick a pin on the blue bulletin board.
But his play-to-the-crowd comment about the Dodgers at FanFest is stirring up the first cloud of dust in what is sure to be a wild NL West rivalry this season.
Belt was asked on Saturday about the Dodgers’ major league-high $230 million payroll and responded, “All I can say is, you can’t buy team chemistry."
Three days later, his Twitter feed is still smoldering. And he has to shake his head and laugh.
“I really didn’t think twice about saying it,” Belt said, after arriving in camp on Tuesday. “I mean, you never want to stir things up. But it was just an innocent comment. I mean, didn’t say they wouldn’t have good team chemistry. I just said you can’t buy it, and I meant it as more of a positive for us because we have it.
“And now I’m getting killed.”
Hey, when you win two World Series in three years, your archrivals can get a little oversensitive.
It’s going to be an interesting year between these two historic foes – beginning April 1, when the Giants open the season at Dodger Stadium.
“Oh, it’ll be fun,” Belt said. “But I doubt anyone will know who I am when I get out there.”
Belt will be out afield this spring. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he plans to give Belt innings in left field, not only because he’ll need to cover innings with Andres Torres and Angel Pagan in the World Baseball Classic, but because Bochy doesn’t want to take Belt’s bat out of the lineup during the regular season when he puts catcher Buster Posey at first base.
Bochy reiterated he sees Posey’s workload mirroring what he did last year, when he started 111 games at catcher, 29 at first base and three more at designated hitter.
Belt often sat when Posey started at first base. Bochy doesn’t want that to happen again.
Yes, Beltists, you heard that right.
“I don’t want to take Belt’s bat out of there,” Bochy said. “Hopefully that’s how left field will help.”
Brett Pill will see time in left field as well this spring as he battles for a bench role. And because Gary Brown is one of only two non-roster outfielders in camp, the former first-round pick will get plenty of innings to show major league coaches what kind of adjustments he made to compete better against right-handed pitching.
Brown might get innings at all three outfield spots, Bochy said. But he’s still viewed as the center fielder of the future. (Pagan just signed a four-year contract but can always be moved to left field if and when Brown shows he’s ready to be an everyday big leaguer.)
For now, though, Brown is the future. Belt’s time is now.
“The past couple years I’ve had to make adjustments on the fly and this will be no different,” he said of the expected forays into left field. “I’m not going to be spectacular or anything, but I can get fairly comfortable.”
Mostly, it’s good to hear that Bochy is confident enough in Belt’s ability to contribute every day that he wants to keep his bat in the lineup.
“That gives you confidence, and keeping it simple helps, too,” he said. “You’ve definitely seen that with me at the plate.”
If Belt is going to rile up Dodgers fans again, better to do it in the batter’s box.