Brandon Belt quietly finding success in 2013

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During his rapid ascent to the Majors, Giants first baseman Brandon Belt was ranked as highly as the #23 overall prospect by Baseball America prior to the 2011 season.  Promoted that same year, Belt took a while to get kickstarted in the Majors. His wrist was fractured on a pitch thrown by Cardinals reliever Trever Miller on May 31 and didn’t return until July 19. He had only limited power between his return and the end of the regular season.

Giants fans, for the most part, were running out of patience with Belt. They wanted results, and they wanted them quickly. Any excitement that had been generated by Belt dissipated and only the most patient stuck with him through the adversity. That patience has been rewarded as he has played quite well throughout the 2013 season. Belt, with a solo home run in today’s victory over the Nationals, boosted his OPS to .826, the fourth-best mark among National League first basemen (min. 300 plate appearances), trailing Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, and Freddie Freeman.

2013 has been disappointing for Giants fans, but the breakout season by Belt — the team’s second-best hitter behind Buster Posey — should be encouraging at least.

Steven Matz to skip next spring training start with elbow issues

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Mets’ left-hander Steven Matz will miss his Grapefruit League appearance on Monday after experiencing soreness in his left elbow, according to a report by Mike Puma of the New York Post. Matz reportedly first felt discomfort in his elbow on Wednesday after pitching four innings against the Marlins, but a medical evaluation revealed no structural damage.

Still, it’s unsettling news for the 25-year-old, who is coming off of an injury-riddled 2016 season. Matz pitched to a 3.40 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 8.8 SO/9 during his sophomore campaign with the Mets, but his success was hampered by a bevy of shoulder and elbow issues that culminated in season-ending surgery to remove bone spurs from his left elbow.

Comments from Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson indicated that while the club doesn’t believe anything is significantly wrong with Matz’s elbow this time around, the setback could have an impact on his chances of cracking the Opening Day roster. Until he’s cleared to return to the mound, the club is expected to take a longer look at rotation candidates Robert Gsellman, Zack Wheeler and Seth Lugo.

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.