The San Francisco Giants have arguably been one of 2014′s early-season surprises, leading the NL West by two games and holding a 4.5-game margin over the division favorite Dodgers.
A big reason for the Giants’ success has been their offense. San Francisco has scored 150 runs going into Saturday’s (May 10) play, the third-best total in the NL. The team’s +27 run differential is also the league’s second-highest mark. But that run production figures to suffer for up to six weeks in light of the news that first baseman Brandon Belt suffered a broken thumb in Friday’s 3-1 win against the Dodgers.
Belt sustained the injury in the second inning, getting hit on the left hand by a fastball from Paul Maholm. Judging from the video (which is unfortunately unavailable to embed here), the thumb appeared to swell up as soon as Belt took off his batting glove to be checked by head trainer Dave Groeschner. The first baseman stayed in the game to run the bases, but was replaced by Joaquin Arias in the bottom of the inning. X-rays taken afterward revealed the fracture.
(Largely because of the rivalry between the Giants and Dodgers, it’s worth mentioning that no one in the San Francisco clubhouse thought Maholm was throwing at Belt. As CSN Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarly reported, it was pretty clear that Maholm was mad at himself for that pitch. After the game, he told reporters that the location was supposed to be down and away. Obviously, he missed that spot badly.)
Last year looked like a breakout season for Belt, but he was on his way to posting even better numbers in 2014. In 139 plate appearances thus far, the 26-year-old has compiled an .820 OPS with nine home runs and 18 RBI. Besides his production, losing Belt also messes up the balance of the Giants’ lineup as he’s really the only consistent left-handed power threat in their batting order.
During his postgame press conference, Giants manager Bruce Bochy speculated that Belt could be out until at least June 20, which is a six-week timetable. A four-to-six-week recovery was estimated for Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who suffered his injury in mid-April while diving toward second base.
For now, the Giants are looking at in-house options to fill in for Belt. That could be good enough, if Belt isn’t out for an indefinite period of time. Catchers Buster Posey and Hector Sanchez could see more time at first base, which might help those two keep fresher legs anyway. Michael Morse has played 130 career games at the position, though not regularly since 2011 when he was the Nationals’ primary first baseman.
Bochy also mentioned Adam Duvall as a possibility, who’s played 16 games at first this season for Triple-A Fresno and has an .870 OPS with 11 homers and 33 RBI. Additionally, the Giants recently re-signed Travis Ishikawa to a minor league deal.
If the Giants were to look outside the organization, Kendrys Morales is still available in free agency, though surely wouldn’t be signed until after the MLB Draft in June so he wouldn’t cost San Francisco its first-round selection. Trade possibilities might include the Nationals’ Adam LaRoche or Mitch Moreland of the Rangers, though both of those teams are currently in playoff contention. Logan Morrison or Corey Hart of the Mariners could be available later in the season as well.