Giants outfielder Angel Pagan hasn’t played in Cactus League exhibitions since last Saturday due to lower back problems. The 33-year-old had back surgery last September and came into spring training with no restrictions, but this latest setback has the Giants concerned.
How concerned? Manager Bruce Bochy is thinking about who could play in the outfield in Pagan’s absence, and one of the options that came up was current first baseman Brandon Belt. Via Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News:
When the spring began, Giants GM Brian Sabean made a declarative statement: Brandon Belt was a first baseman, period.
But with Hunter Pence’s arm in a cast and Angel Pagan receiving back injections again, it might be time to change the punctuation.
“I wouldn’t say period,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy on Friday, asked about using Belt to cover a suddenly thin outfield. “More of a comma. It’s currently being discussed. We’ve talked about Brandon. We’ve done it before.”
Belt has played in the outfield before, of course, but hasn’t logged significant time there since 2011. He accrued 27 1/3 defensive innings in left field in 2012, none in ’13, and exactly one inning in right field last year.
If Pagan would be out for any length of time, Gregor Blanco would likely take over in center field. With Hunter Pence out until late April or early May with a broken forearm, right field would be open to Matt Duffy, Adam Duvall, Gary Brown, Juan Perez, and Belt. Then, with first base open, Buster Posey could move out from behind the plate for a little while, which would help his durability over the course of the season.
The postseason has a knack for finding unlikely heroes. Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki was 1-for-23 in the postseason entering Wednesday’s Game 2 of the World Series. The Nats and Astros each plated two runs in the first inning, then went otherwise scoreless through the sixth inning. In the top of the seventh, with Justin Verlander returning to the mound, Suzuki demolished a high, 1-0 fastball just below the train tracks in left field at Minute Maid Park, breaking the 2-2 tie.
Verlander proceeded to walk Victor Robles, prompting manager A.J. Hinch to take his veteran starter out of the game. Ryan Pressly came in to attempt to keep it a one-run game.
The underdog Nationals held on to defeat the Astros 5-4 in Game 1. Another victory by the Nats in Game 2 would put the Astros — heavy favorites according to oddsmakers — in a big hole.
Update: Pressly walked the first batter he faced, Trea Turner. Adam Eaton successfully sacrifice bunted both runners over. After Anthony Rendon flied out to shallow center field, Hinch decided to issue his team’s first intentional walk of the entire year to Juan Soto, loading the bases. Howie Kendrick then hit what appeared to be an inning-ending ground out, but Alex Bregman booted the ball as he moved to his left. Turner scored to make it 4-2. The floodgates opened when Asdrúbal Cabrera lined a single to center field, bringing home two more runs to pad the lead to 6-2. While pitching to Ryan Zimmerman, Pressly uncorked a wild pitch to allow the two base runners to advance. Zimmerman followed up with a slow roller down the third base line which Bregman barehanded and proceeded to throw away. Two more runs scored. 8-2. Yiiiikes, Astros.