SAN FRANCISCO — After missing 23 games with inflammation in his right knee, Brandon Belt was active for the Giants on Tuesday night against the Royals.
Belt’s premonition that he would be on this series came true, despite not being in the starting lineup against Kansas City starter Kris Bubic, a southpaw. After missing nearly a month and not going through rehab, the Giants plan to bring Belt back, starting with his bench role on Tuesday night.
“We’re choosing to reintroduce him to the roster,” manager Gabe Kapler said, “because he’s a very valuable batsman and defensive back-up sometimes, but also we do it that way because we don’t want to throw him away. right in there and ask him to play nine innings.
Entering Tuesday, Belt hadn’t played a game since a May 18 loss to the Rockies. Before landing on the disabled list, he was batting .228/.342/.386 (113 wRC+) but had cooled off after a torrid start that included his four homers this season in his first 39 at bats.
Over the past week, Belt has increased the intensity of his on-court activities, but the deciding factor in activating him on Tuesday was more of a mental tick.
Kapler said the “number one” reason Belt was deemed ready to join the team on Tuesday was his “enthusiasm” the past two days.
“He really turned a corner,” Kapler said. “Turn a corner in your mind and body isn’t necessarily a surefire way to assess, but it certainly gives us an extra layer of confidence when a player like Brandon says I’m in this space now where I feel. good to be back on the roster and in the lineup.
In a corresponding move, infielder Donovan Walton has been moved to Triple-A Sacramento, meaning Thairo Estrada will take over backup duties at shortstop and should see more starts at second base.
In Belt’s absence, the Giants relied on Wilmer Flores and Darin Ruf at first base.
On Tuesday, Ruf made his 10th start – and seventh in a row – at first since Belt landed on the IL. Flores covered 13 games, including an 11-of-12 streak while Ruf was also unavailable.
Flores, 30, has been one of the Giants’ most durable players this season, appearing in 56 of their 61 games after Tuesday. Kapler recently said that “one of the hardest things” he faced was finding a day off for Flores.
“We’re really looking for ways to give Wilmer a shot here and there,” Kapler said. “When we have a guy who is a little tight, the first guy you want to bring in is Wilmer. It’s a challenge.”
Ruf and Flores will likely be asked to cover first base for at least a little longer, even with Belt joining the roster on Tuesday. The players who could be most affected by Belt’s return, at least initially, are Evan Longoria and Tommy La Stella, who have shared the majority of designated hitting duties over the past month.
While Belt was available on the bench on Tuesday and Kapler said he would be able to stay in the game on the court if needed, DH will likely be an important part of his reintroduction.
“We will probably relieve him a bit. It’s been a bit,” Kapler said. “You might see a DH here and there, you might see innings at first base and we’ll replace him in the game. … Tomorrow, if we want to, we can have him DH. Today, if we need it and we’re in a tight spot if we have to get him to hit and stay in the game, we can do that as well.
Cobb on track for Pittsburgh departure
Everything is gearing up for Alex Cobb to join the Giants’ rotation Sunday in Pittsburgh, the first day he is eligible to be activated from the 15-day injured list.
On Tuesday, Cobb threw 44 pitches during a live BP session at Oracle Park that Kapler said “went well.” That would give him five days off before Sunday’s game against the Pirates.
“Velocity was exactly where it needed to be,” Kapler said. “Throwed three pitches for strikes.”