Giants demote Brandon Belt to minors, activate Cody Ross from disabled list

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Cody Ross is back from the disabled list and batting cleanup for San Francisco this afternoon, and to make room on the roster the Giants have optioned top prospect Brandon Belt back to Triple-A.

Belt played regularly after somewhat surprisingly making the team out of spring training, starting 13 of 17 games, but he hit just .192 with one homer and a .569 OPS in 60 plate appearances and in order to get him into the lineup the Giants had to weaken the outfield defense with Aubrey Huff in right field.

That’s going to remain an issue whenever Belt returns, because Huff is under contract for $10 million next season and has a $10 million option or $2 million buyout for 2013, but the 23-year-old Belt can benefit from more time in the minors–he spent just 13 games at Triple-A last season–and by sending him back down the Giants keep his service time clock from ticking any further. Belt remains one of the best hitting prospects in baseball, but he’s not a fully formed major leaguer yet and may get some outfield work himself in Fresno.

Blue Jays sign Danny Espinosa to minors deal

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Free agent middle infielder Danny Espinosa signed a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays, the team announced Saturday. The deal includes an invite to spring training, where Espinosa is scheduled for his first split-squad game against the Orioles this afternoon.

Espinosa, 30, was inked to another minor-league deal with the Yankees in January. The veteran infielder was competing for an infield job until the team picked up second baseman Neil Walker on a one-year, $4 million deal last Monday. Prior to his release, he slashed .160/.276/.320 with one home run through his first 12 games with the Yankees this spring. He didn’t fare much better in the majors last year, either, batting a cumulative .173/.245/.278 with six home runs and a .523 OPS in 295 PA for the Mariners and Rays.

Blue Jays starting shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is still dealing with a bone spur in his heel and has officially been ruled out for Opening Day, which could clear a path for Espinosa to claim a starting role in Toronto. Of course, he won’t be the only candidate under consideration — Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz are still in the mix as well, though no final decision appears to be made just yet.