Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring Training Notes: Ortiz Released, Journeymen Re-Assigned and Belt OTF?

With Opening Day (well...the official one, unless you count today's games in Japan as Opening Day) officially begins next week, which means we're winding down in Scottsdale. So, as with anything winding down, there is some new swirling around Giants camp as the rosters start to get finalized. Safe to say, there probably is a lot more on the horizon for the Giants in the next couple of days.

Here are a few of the most recent tidbits that deal with Giants prospects/minor league players.

-- According to Hank Schulman of the SF Chronicle, the Giants released journeyman right handed pitcher Ramon Ortiz. Ortiz pitched for the Fresno Grizzlies in 2010, but didn't get a callup at any point that season. Last year, Ortiz made his return back to the big leagues, making 22 appearances for the Cubs while posting an ERA of 4.86 in 33.1 IP. Despite his experience and arm (he averaged 6.8 strikeouts per nine innings last year with the Cubs), it was a longshot that Ortiz would break camp with the Major League team, let alone see any playing time at the Major League level at any point this season. With the Giants depth in the starting rotation and bullpen, the chips were heavily stacked against Ortiz this Spring. Chances are though he will catch on with another team at some point this year, most likely with a team that is in more need of pitching or bullpen depth.

-- Also, Schulman reported that the Giants re-assigned Andrew Kown, Brian Burres, Wilmin Rodriguez, and Shane Loux to Minor League camp. All of them were non-roster invitees, so the decision on these guys doesn't really come as a surprise. Rodriguez had the most impressive Spring of the bunch, as he posted a 1.96 ERA and 0.75 WHIP in six appearances and 5.1 innings of work. He also recorded a save and struck out five batters while allowing four hits and no walks. Of all the listed guys above with an outside chance to somehow sneak on the 40-man roster this year, I think Rodriguez has the best shot, especially with Dan Runzler's health a major question mark this year.

-- Much to this writer's dismay, Brandon Belt may start the year in Fresno despite a stellar spring (he was hitting .380 with three home runs going into today's game), according to Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area (and formerly the SJ Mercury). Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens had this to say in Baggarly's piece about Belt's performance at the plate this Spring:

“He’s way out in front of the batter’s box,” Meulens said. “It works for him, but want to make sure he’s getting the bat head out on those pitches middle-in and not just trying to flare it to left-center. We’re on the back field using drills so he can create that feel. When his elbow goes out, the barrel actually flattens and it takes a longer time to get the bat out in front."

My big issue with this is that I understand Belt may not put up the .380 mark in the Majors this year like he has been doing this Spring. That is unrealistic of course, and I think he would probably be a .250-.270 hitter with a .340-.360 OBP and .420-.450 slugging. However, Belt really has nothing else to prove in Fresno (he mashed last year), and he offers a lot more value to the Giants other than just offense (he is a huge defensive upgrade over Aubrey Huff). It's just sad that the Giants are being so cautious with him, because I think he came on toward the end of the year after the Giants stopped sending him down to Fresno and back up to San Francisco like one of those crazy, flashing Yo-Yo's. Hopefully, Belt will get an extended shot at first for the Giants at some point this year and can prove to the Giants he's the best option for the Giants not only for the future, but for the present as well.

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