Belt receives breather after slow start

Belt receives breather after slow start

Belt receives breather after slow start
DENVER -- After first baseman Brandon Belt opened the season going 1-for-10 with five strikeouts, manager Bruce Bochy gave him a day off in Monday's series opener in Colorado, hoping to give him a chance to clear his head and get back to the groove that found him hitting .378 (28-for-74) with three home runs in the Cactus League.

"He was fighting it a little bit there, so I'm just giving him a couple days with the day off tomorrow," Bochy said.

The move allows Bochy to make the most of his versatile outfield, moving Aubrey Huff to his natural position of first base after the veteran started the first three games in the outfield, and bringing in Gregor Blanco to start in right field, giving the team more speed patrolling Coors Field's expansive outfield acreage.

With the 23-year-old Belt coming off his rookie season, Bochy wanted to make sure he didn't start the season off frustrated from a few tough games.

"That's what's not going to happen -- we're not going to let it happen," Bochy said. "He admitted he was pressing a little bit. He wants to do what he can to help the club. I don't want these guys to think like that three games into the season. We've got the season ahead of us. We had a tough series, but I don't want anybody to put too much pressure on themselves early."

Belt hit .225 with nine homers and 18 RBIs in 63 games with the Giants last year, the sum total of his big league experience. He was the Giants' Opening Day first baseman last year, but had three trips up and down to the Minor Leagues as he struggled at the plate and suffered a hairline fracture in his wrist after being hit by a pitch. He started 19 games at first and 31 in the outfield.

"When a hitter tells me he's pressing, it's probably time to give him a day and let him relax a little bit," Bochy said, taking care not to make too much of the move. "It's natural for a young player. It's early in the season, and they want to get off to a good start. They sometimes lose sight that there's a lot of games in the season. The first week is not going to determine what kind of year you're going to have. It's a natural reaction. I've seen it from a lot of young players."

Though Bochy was unconcerned about Belt's three-day mini-slump, he said he is interested to see how players respond to challenging times.

"You like to watch your players when they're struggling and see how they handle it," Bochy said. "That's what separates your average player from your good players. How they deal with adversity, their mental toughness. That's what you got to have in this game."