Giants expect Brandon Belt back around the Fourth of July

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Giants first baseman Brandon Belt is targeting July 4 to return from thumb surgery that has sidelined him since mid-May, according to Nate Stuhlbarg of CSNBayArea.com.

Stuhlbarg reports that Belt has no issues gripping a bat to hit, but gripping a baseball to make throws from first base is still giving him problems. Despite that he could be cleared to begin a minor-league rehab assignment later this week.

He was initially expected to miss around six weeks, but a July 4 return would mean missing a total of eight weeks. Belt hit .264 with nine homers and an .820 OPS in 35 games before the injury, showing more power than usual while providing what has become his standard overall production.

In his absence Michael Morse shifted from the outfield to first base and has hit .330 with five homers and a .931 OPS in 29 starts there. Morse will move back to left field when Belt returns, likely pushing Tyler Colvin and Gregor Blanco to the bench while giving San Francisco’s lineup a nice boost.

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.