Notes: Belt to IL; Oracle set for full capacity

May 27th, 2021

First baseman missed five consecutive games during the Giants’ road trip last week as he tried to manage a bothersome injury on his left side. But Belt ultimately couldn’t avoid being shelved, as he landed on the 10-day injured list with a mild left oblique strain prior to Wednesday night’s series finale against the D-backs at Chase Field.

Belt exited the Giants’ 8-0 win over the D-backs on Tuesday night after tweaking his oblique on a swing during his final plate appearance in the ninth inning. He underwent an MRI exam on Wednesday that revealed the strain, which is expected to keep him sidelined for 10 to 14 days.

“We haven't quite figured it out yet, and now that we have something to go on with the scan from today, we know how to treat it,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I asked him how he's doing, and he said he was sore today. We've had some days where he just hasn't been sore until he's been up at the plate and started to swing. It's actually nice to know that we have something definitive to work on.”

To replace Belt on the 26-man roster, the Giants recalled another left-handed-hitting infielder, Jason Vosler, from Triple-A Sacramento. Vosler, 27, is 2-for-14 in his brief stints with the Giants this year and can play first, second and third base, as well as left field.

Vosler could see time at the corner-infield spots, especially as the Giants try to find more opportunities to rest veteran third baseman Evan Longoria, but Kapler said Darin Ruf will likely absorb most of the reps at first base while Belt is out.

Ruf, who started at first against D-backs right-hander Merrill Kelly on Wednesday, was batting .228 with an .867 OPS and six home runs through his first 42 games of the season. He’s hit lefties (.971 OPS) better than righties (.781 OPS), but the Giants have been pleased with the quality of his plate appearances and his ability to consistently deliver hard contact. Ruf ranks second among National League hitters with a 95 mph average exit velocity this year, trailing only Longoria (96.2 mph).

“I think in the interim, Ruf is a really good option for us,” Kapler said. “He's really done a nice job against right-handed pitching. It hasn't always ended with something good at the end of the at-bat. Sometimes he's struck out against right-handed pitching, but I really think he's worked high-quality at-bats. You look up, and it's almost always a 3-2 [count], so he's grinding, he's competitive and he hits for power.”

Kapler said it’s also “reasonable” to expect that Wilmer Flores (right hamstring strain) will be ready to return once he’s eligible to come off the IL on Saturday in Los Angeles. Flores participated in on-field batting practice, took ground balls and played catch on Tuesday without complaints.

Oracle Park moving to full capacity on June 25

The Giants announced Wednesday that Oracle Park will return to full capacity beginning on June 25, when the A’s come to town for the annual Bay Bridge Series.

The decision to lift attendance restrictions at Oracle Park comes after the State of California announced that sports venues will be permitted to operate at full capacity without social distancing beginning on June 15.

“California’s reopening on June 15 is an important milestone in our state’s recovery from the challenging and, for many, life-changing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Giants president and CEO Larry Baer said in a statement. “We have been working closely with the San Francisco Department of Health to safely implement these reopening guidelines at Oracle Park, and we are excited to welcome even more fans back to Oracle Park next month.”

Home games played May 31-June 20 will still operate under previous social distancing and fully vaccinated-section guidelines.

Beginning on June 25, season ticket holders will return to their original seat locations, and single-game tickets will be available for individuals, groups and special events. Tickets for full capacity regular-season games will go on sale on Thursday at 2 p.m. PT.

Minor League promotions

Before the start of the season, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said the Giants planned to be conservative with Minor League placements, but promote aggressively once prospects proved that they were ready for the next level.

That approach was demonstrated by the organization’s decision to promote a trio of pitching prospects Tuesday.

Left-hander Sam Long made the jump to Triple-A Sacramento after logging a 3.00 ERA with 22 strikeouts over 15 innings in four starts with Double-A Richmond this year. Long, a Sacramento native, was a surprise standout during Spring Training, with Kapler calling the 25-year-old “a guy who has a chance to be a Major League starter at some point.”

Right-handers Caleb Kilian (No. 30 ranked prospect) and Jose Marte were also bumped up to Double-A Richmond after dominating at High-A Eugene.

Killian, the Giants’ eighth-round Draft pick out of Texas Tech in 2019, opened his most recent outing against Tri-City on Saturday with 6 2/3 perfect innings. He departed after allowing one hit and striking out 10 over seven scoreless innings, improving to 3-0 with a 1.25 ERA over four starts. Marte, 24, didn’t allow a run over five relief appearances with the Emeralds, racking up 14 strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings.