AT&T PARK — Brandon Belt arrived to the San Francisco Giants clubhouse sitting backwards on a medical cart, accompanied by his wife and son Grayson. Five days after surgery on his knee, he can’t put weight on it. He won’t be able to for three weeks. Still, this is the last homestand of the season, and this is where he belongs.
In the corridor deep inside AT&T Park, Belt — after a season punctuated with a bout of appendicitis, an unsuccessful push to be named to the All-Star game as part of the final man competition and finally, a hyperextended right knee — accepted the Bill Rigney Good Guy Award from the local chapter of the Baseball Writers of America with his typical humor.
“That’s awesome,” Belt said. “Did y’all run out of guys to give it to? … I don’t know how everybody else feels about it, but it means a lot to me. I try to be as good as I can to everybody.”
Even amidst what’s been a trying season for the Giants — their second losing season in a row after making the postseason in four of the previous six years — Belt has been available, open and frank, all while walking everywhere in his size-15 bare feet — even along the warning track.
“I think everybody’s got a job to do,” Belt said. “I don’t think the negativity gets me too far. I’m thankful as I can be and grateful as I can be to be in this situation. It’s been tough. It’s been tough at times this year, but just looking forward to getting healthy, coming back and winning again. That hope and that optimism is what gets you through these tough times.”
The Giants won’t lose 90 games this year — they’re 73-85 with four games left entering Wednesday — but their 183 losses is the most in a two-year period since the franchise lost 196 between 1984 and 1985. Injuries to Belt, Madison Bumgarner, Joe Panik, Evan Longoria, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Mac Williamson, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija have derailed what was a plan to ride veteran hands to the postseason. Since Belt left, San Francisco has dismissed general manager Bobby Evans, who will be reassigned within the organization — and initiated a search for a “next-gen” head of baseball operations.
Before going down with appendicitis on June 1, Belt was hitting .307 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs in 53 games, posting a .403 on-base percentage and a .950 OPS. He had three homers, 15 RBIs and hit .203 with a .290 slugging percentage in his final 59 games. He wouldn’t attribute his production drop to the pesky knee, but he couldn’t discount it, either.
“Sometimes, you lose rhythm just from being out for a couple weeks and not playing baseball, and really, it kind of leaves your mind for a little bit,” Belt said. “Trying the get that rhythm and timing is tough. It may not be for some people, but it is for me. Honestly, I wasn’t 100 percent, but I just felt like nobody’s 100 percent right now.”
After undergoing his second knee surgery in four years, Belt, in his eighth season was of course in good spirits.
‘”Something I do on the field gets on my meniscus a little bit,” Belt said. “It’s not a big deal, but got that cleaned up, and had micro-fracture for the cartilage, which happened in Seattle.”
Though Belt experienced “some degree” of pain throughout the season — scar tissue and the meniscus hurt when he slid — what spurred the surgery was an infield single in Seattle. While beating out James Paxton, Belt hyperextended his knee and suffered a bone bruise on July 25.
His surgery involved “a little bit of micro-fracture,” which is the reason why his rehab will take longer than a normal cleanup — the type of surgery he had in 2015. He had a small meniscus tear — the same injury he had in 2015 — that was repaired.
“Once the bone bruise calmed down, I was expecting to come back and be more, but it just never went away,” Belt said. “It just stayed there for the rest of the season. Hoenstly, I’m just happy to get it taken care of so I don’t have to worry. Last time I got it cleaned up, it lasted for two or three years. That’s what I’m looking forward to now.”
He’ll then do partial-weight-bearing exercises for a week or two, and then six weeks out from surgery — in mid-November — he should be able to start weight lifting. He normally starts lifting on Nov. 1, so he shouldn’t see too much alteration to his offseason regimen.
“I wanted to play as long as I could, but getting in the extra week, week and a half, is going to help this offseason, save me some time there, and give me the whole offseason to work out,” Belt said.
Manager Bruce Bochy said that after fouling a ball off the inside of his left knee on Tuesday, third baseman EvanLongoria will take the final day of the series off, before the off day on Thursday. He will, however, play against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the final series of the season.
Wednesday was a scheduled day off for shortstop Brandon Crawford, who played all 12 innings on Tuesday night against the San Diego Padres.
Owner Peter Magowan made the rounds in the clubhouse before the game, speaking with Hunter Pence and Mark Melancon.
Wednesday was Marvel Day at the ballpark, with Lou Ferrigno and Laurence Fishburn throwing out the first pitch. Pitcher Dereck Rodriguez is a bit of a comic book fan, with several Deadpool Funko POP! figures in his locker earlier this season. The rookie right-hander, though, is more of a DC Comics fan. He has Michelle Pfeifer’s Catwoman tattooed on his forearm, and on the reverse, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn.
Pitcher Derek Holland is also a comics fan, with a resin statue of Iron Man and one of Batman from the Dark Knight Trilogy. Rodriguez hasn’t seen it in person, but, he said, if he did, it would be coming home with him.