With Huff under contract, what happens to Brandon Belt?

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Like I said a few minutes ago, the Aubrey Huff contract is not a terrible one. I had visions that the Giants would give him four years or something crazy, but two years plus an option is not a bad deal for the guy.  The one question it raises, however, is what the Giants should/will do about first base prospect Brandon Belt.

Belt, for those who don’t know, was a 2009 draftee who spent 2010 rocketing his way through the Giants system. He began in High-A ball where he played 77 games, moved on to Double-A where he played 46 more and then spent 13 games at Triple-A.  He raked at all three stops, with OPSs of 1.121, 1.036 and .956, respectively.  He turned heads in the Arizona Fall League this year as well.  Most who have seen him believe he’ll rake in the big leagues, and that he stands a chance at being a plus-defender at first base.

But Huff’s there for now.  And for now, that won’t matter.  Given that the Giants didn’t call Buster Posey up until late in 2009, hardly played him and then let him sit in the minors for the first two months of 2010, there’s a decent chance that Belt doesn’t sniff the bigs until next September. And a chance that he doesn’t have a regular job in the bigs until a few months before Huff’s contract is up, at which point Bruce Bochy will figure out how to blend them together.

But even if the Giants decide to promote Belt earlier than they did Posey, things could still work out.  Huff played 46 games in left field last year and a few more in right.  He could certainly do it again. Would it be ideal? Nah, but they lived with and won a World Series with Pat Burrell manning left field last season, and there’s no way Huff could be worse out there, can there?  Even if he’s a total liability, Bochy proved more than content to use defensive replacements early and often for Burrell, so he’d be able to do the same with Huff.

So, no, I don’t see the Huff deal as somehow blocking Brandon Belt. Mostly because, if Brian Sabean’s form holds,  he won’t be in San Francisco to be blocked for a while.  And even if he is, there are ways to deal with it.

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.