With Aoki sidelined, install Belt in LF
Wednesday, June 24
SAN FRANCISCO — Nori Aoki’s temporary replacement in left field could already be on the active Major League roster, and it isn’t Gregor Blanco or Justin Maxwell.
It’s Brandon Belt.
The Giants might have to tolerate an occasional defensive misplay from Belt, who has vastly more experience at first base than he does in left. But the offensive potential that San Francisco would gain by having Belt in left, Buster Posey at first base and Andrew Susac catching eclipses any other alternative.
Simpler, more obvious options abound: Summoning Juan Perez or Jarrett Parker from Triple-A Sacramento and plugging one of them in a corner outfield spot while Blanco or Maxwell occupies the other. Or, playing Blanco in left and Maxwell in right every day.
These are “safe” combinations that would provide adequate defense. And we all know that the Giants are rooted in pitching and defense. For the short term, however, the Giants need to reclaim at least some of the energy they lost with Aoki’s departure due to a fractured right fibula. They’d accomplish that while keeping Belt’s bat in the lineup, receiving possibly enhanced production from Posey, who’s hitting .313 (15-for-48) as a first baseman and .281 (56-for-199) otherwise, and adding Susac, who’s 7-for-16 in his last five games. The Giants already have tried this without dramatic results, but now’s the time to throw full support behind this venture.
This also might be a good opportunity to keep Brandon Crawford in the upper half of the batting order. Previously, he has occupied the sixth, seventh or eighth spots in 54 of 65 starts. Heck, bat Crawford leadoff. He knows what he’s doing up there. Matt Duffy, who seems incapable of NOT getting meaningful hits when called upon, also can help compensate for the void left by Aoki. Manager Bruce Bochy has somewhat fulfilled his promise to elevate Duffy in the batting order. But the rookie third baseman still has hit seventh in five of his last eight starts.
Overcoming the simultaneous absences of Aoki and right fielder Hunter Pence certainly will challenge the Giants. “If we want to be the ballclub we want to be, somebody’s going to have to step up,” ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner said. They have men who can accomplish this, if they’re placed in positions to succeed.
— Chris Haft