Belt, Pagan return; Bochy hedges on Morse
Friday, Sept. 19
SAN DIEGO — Though the Giants have no ironclad guarantee that first baseman Brandon Belt and center fielder Angel Pagan were fit to play, both rejoined the lineup for Friday night’s series opener against the San Diego Padres.
Belt’s pinch-hitting stint Wednesday represented his first activity for the Giants since Aug. 6, which followed his recovery from a concussion. Pagan missed the three-game Arizona series with back stiffness. Their last joint appearance in the lineup was June 14.
“I wish both of them would have had a week or two of at-bats,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said before Friday’s game.
But the urgency of the Giants’ pursuit of a postseason spot left Bochy little choice but to field his best potential lineup, even if it wasn’t the healthiest contingent he could have used.
Belt passed multiple “tests,” Bochy said. Staying in the Phoenix area while the rest of the team left for San Diego following Wednesday’s series finale against the Diamondbacks, Belt worked out at the Giants’ instructional league camp at their Scottsdale training headquarters. Belt estimated that he took 100 swings in extra and regular batting practice, besides working on his defense.
“It was productive,” Belt said of his extra work. He noticed that certain aspects of his hitting needed further sharpening. “But I knew that was going to happen,” he said.
Bochy’s reasoning for reinstalling Pagan in the leadoff spot was simple. The switch-hitter declared after Wednesday’s game that he would play Friday “no matter what,” Bochy said.
First baseman-left fielder Michael Morse also caught the health bug, telling Bochy that he felt ready for action. Bochy acknowledged that Morse was available to play. But Bochy also indicated that he wanted to wait at least another day before deciding how or whether to use Morse, who missed San Francisco’s previous 15 games with a strained left oblique.
Bochy hinted that even if Morse is playable, Gregor Blanco might remain in left field. “With the job he’s done defensively and with the bat, he’s been a catalyst and has really played some great ball on both sides,” Bochy said of Blanco, who actually entered Friday batting .182 (4-for-22) in his previous seven games.
— Chris Haft