Giants acquire Jeff Keppinger from Astros, call up Brandon Belt

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The Giants made a couple of key changes on Tuesday, acquiring infielder Jeff Keppinger from the Astros for RHP Henry Sosa and RHP Jason Stoffel and calling up Brandon Belt from Triple-A Fresno.

Keppinger has been on the trade block ever since he returned from foot surgery at the end of May.  Since replacing Bill Hall as the Astros’ primary second baseman, he’s hit .307/.320/.436 with four homers and 20 RBI in 163 at-bats.  Rarely one to swing and miss, he had just four walks and seven strikeouts in 43 games.  Last year, he hit .288/.351/.393 in 514 at-bats for Houston.

The 31-year-old Keppinger will fill the hole at second base the Giants have dealt with ever since losing Freddy Sanchez to a shoulder injury.  The Giants originally picked up Hall after he was released by the Astros, but he struggled and is currently on the DL.  If Sanchez is able to avoid season-ending surgery and return next month, then Keppinger will likely slide into a utility role.

The cost for Keppinger was a pair of modest prospects.  Sosa, 25, was one regarded as one of the Giants’ best prospects, but his stock as slipped the last couple of years.  The Giants shifted him to the pen in Triple-A this year with brutal results; he had a 10.41 ERA in 17 appearances before being sent back to Double-A.  Restored to the rotation in the Eastern League, he had a 2.68 ERA and a 36/8 K/BB ratio in 40 1/3 innings.

Stoffel, 22, was also pitching for Double-A Richmond and had a 3.98 ERA as the team’s primary closer.

The Astros should be pleased if one of the two turns into a decent bullpen arm for the team.

The Giants also recalled Belt after he hit .293/.442/.610 with three homers in 12 games for Triple-A Fresno.  He’ll likely get Pat Burrell’s at-bats in left field for now.

21-year-old catcher Hector Sanchez, who was just called up last week, was returned to the minors.  He played in three games and went 0-for-3.

To replace Keppinger, the Astros called up one of their top prospects, Jose Altuve, from Double-A Corpus Christi.

Royals fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender again. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and failed experiments with veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by the middle of summer.

The disappointing product led owner John Sherman last month to fire longtime front office executive Dayton Moore, the architect of back-to-back American League champions and the 2015 World Series title team. Moore was replaced by one of his longtime understudies, J.J. Picollo, who made the decision to fire Matheny hours after the season ended.

Matheny became the fifth big league manager to be fired this year.

Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi was replaced on June 3 by Rob Thomson, who engineered a miraculous turnaround to get the Phillies into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Angels replaced Joe Maddon with Phil Nevin four days later, Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo was succeeded by John Schneider on July 13 and the Rangers’ Chris Woodward by Tony Beasley on Aug. 15.

In addition, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he will not return next season.