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.

Nationals to reinstate Max Scherzer on Thursday

Max Scherzer
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Some good news for the Nationals today: All-Star hurler Max Scherzer is due back from the injured list this week, this time (hopefully) for good. He’s slated to start during Thursday’s series finale against the Pirates.

It’s been a long road back for the right-hander, who earned his seventh consecutive All-Star designation after heading into the break with a 2.30 ERA, 5.6 fWAR, and a league-leading 7.56 SO/BB rate. An untimely back injury forced him to the injured list in the days leading up to the All-Star Game, however, and he hasn’t returned in any kind of part-time or full-time capacity since.

While Scherzer was originally expected to pitch for the Nationals sometime during their weekend series versus the Brewers, manager Dave Martinez elected to push back his return date by a few days. It’s not clear whether he felt some lingering pain during his 64-pitch simulated start on Saturday or whether the Nationals simply want to play it safe with their ace, but either way, the club apparently feels like Scherzer will be back to full strength before the end of the week.

If so, his return would be a significant asset to the Nationals, who could use a sub-3.00 ERA, 5.0-fWAR starter to help bolster their standing in the NL East. Still, there’s no guarantee that the veteran righty is ready to shoulder a full-time role in Washington’s rotation, nor is it certain that he’ll be able to match his results from the first half of the season. In one start between IL stints last month, he dealt five innings of three-run, two-walk, eight-strikeout ball in an 8-7 loss to the Rockies.