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.

Victor Martinez played his final major league game on Saturday

Victor Martinez
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After 16 years in the majors, longtime Tigers DH Victor Martinez capped his career with one final start at Comerica Park. Although there are seven games remaining in the club’s regular season schedule, Martinez said he felt he owed it to the fans to record his final at-bat at home. He’ll still cheer the rest of the team on from the dugout when they hit the road for their last six-game stretch on Monday, though he’s not expected to slot into the lineup at any point during their back-to-back away series against the Twins and Brewers.

In order to commemorate the occasion, the Tigers arranged a pregame ceremony to celebrate the veteran infielder’s seven years with the team, during which they presented him with Topps baseball cards, a recliner, a pair of boots, and a saddle, among other honors. Martinez also put in a special request to play first base, a position he hadn’t manned in over two years.

The 39-year-old didn’t waste a single minute of his final start in the majors. He deftly handled an inning-ending out in the top of the first, then laced a rare infield single to short in his first and final at-bat of the afternoon, beating the throw to first and advancing Nicholas Castellanos to second base in order to set up the Tigers’ first run: a two-out RBI single from Niko Goodrum that brought Castellanos home to score.

“I think that at-bat was the perfect at-bat to describe my career,” Martinez told reporters after the Tigers wrapped a 5-4 win over the Royals. “I had to sweat it out. I had to sweat it out the whole way. I had to grind it. That was my whole career.”

Following the hit — and the standing ovation that greeted it — the switch-hitter was promptly replaced by pinch-runner Ronny Rodriguez, who subbed in at second base in the top of the second while Goodrum shifted from second to first base. Taking Saturday’s performance into account, Martinez polished off his big league career with a lifetime .295/.359/.455 batting line, 423 doubles, 246 home runs, 1,178 RBI, and 28.4 fWAR across 1,973 games and three separate stints for the Indians, Red Sox, and Tigers. His accomplishments at the plate have been decorated with five All-Star nominations, two Silver Slugger Awards, and the designated hitter-exclusive Edgar Martinez Award following a career-best campaign in 2014.