Brandon Belt

Brandon Belt on Giants’ bench for fourth straight game

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Apparently the Giants’ commitment to Brandon Belt as a regular lasted all of three games.

He went 1-for-10 with five strikeouts and has been on the bench for each of the past four games, including this afternoon’s matchup against the Pirates despite right-hander James McDonald being on the mound.

In fact, three of the four benchings have come versus right-handed pitching, so it’s not as if manager Bruce Bochy is simply shielding the left-handed-hitting Belt from tough southpaws.

There’s been lots of talk–or rationalizing, depending on your point of view–about how the Giants want Belt to make some major adjustments at the plate and he’s been hesitant to do so, but ultimately he’s a 23-year-old top prospect who’s crushed the ball at every level of the minors and was hardly disastrous in his 63-game debut last season (his OPS was higher than Aubrey Huff’s, for instance).

Belt is a career .343 hitter in the minors and hit .378 this spring, yet Bochy is perfectly happy to keep him on the bench while playing Huff, Nate Schierholtz, and Brett Pill. Maybe the Giants are right and Belt won’t thrive in the majors unless he makes some key adjustments, but at some point he deserves a chance to show what he can do without worrying about an 0-for-4 game getting him benched for a week.

Leonys Martin feared for his life from alleged human traffickers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30: Leonys Martin #12 of the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 30, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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Leonys Martin, outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, testified yesterday that he feared for his life after he was smuggled from Cuba by a group of men prosecutors say worked for a sports agent and a baseball trainer currently on trial for human trafficking in Miami.

Martin took the stand at the trial of Bartolo Hernandez and Julio Estrada, who face felony charges. He said that, after getting to Mexico from Cuba, men threatened to take him away. There was a kidnapping attempt against one of the men who had taken him from Cuba as well. Martin said that, eventually, he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas without any valid papers because his life was in danger and his safety was at risk.

Players like Martin who fled Cuba often hole up in Mexico while waiting to be declared free agents by Major League Baseball. There is pitched competition to sign agreements with the players in question, seeking to obtain promises of a cut of future baseball earnings for their services. Those promises can come under the threat of violence. Eventually, Martin promised to pay Hernandez and Estrada, but ceased paying them later, fomenting a lawsuit from them. In the wake of the suit, the allegations of threats and smuggling arose, leading to this trial.

Martin has been late to Mariners camp as a result of having to testify. He’ll likely report in the next day or so. The trial continues.

Josh Hamilton leaves camp with a tweaked knee

SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 28:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers poses during a spring training photo shoot on February 28, 2016 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Josh Hamilton was already a long shot to make the Texas Rangers roster, but his shot got even longer today, as he left camp to have his reconstructed left knee examined after experiencing pain.

As Jeff Wilson reports, Hamilton felt discomfort in the knee during the Rangers’ first full-squad spring training workout yesterday. Hamilton has had 10 knee operations in career. Which is a lot of knee operations in case you were unaware.

You have to wish good luck to Hamilton, but at the same time you have to be realistic. The guy has not played in the major leagues since 2015 and even then he didn’t play well, hitting .253 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 50 games. He appeared in one game last year for Double-A Frisco, on April 30. He’ll be paid $24 million this year, mostly by the Angels. One suspects that this will likewise be his last spring training.