Belt gets first look at Oracle Park dimensions

'I didn't really notice a difference. But I definitely don't hate it'

July 6th, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO -- Back in December, the Giants announced plans to alter the outfield dimensions at Oracle Park to make way for the new bullpens, which were relocated from foul territory to beyond the center-field wall to enhance player safety on the field.

Giants hitters received their first opportunity to swing for the moved-in fences during live batting practice on Saturday, though first baseman said the reconfigurations haven't made much of an impression on him thus far.

“Honestly, I haven't even noticed it,” Belt said Sunday. “I forgot that that even happened.”

The deepest part of the ballpark, the corner of Triples Alley in right-center field, was shortened from 421 feet to 415. Left-center field moved from 404 to 399 feet, while center field shifted from 399 to 391. The center-field wall is now 7 feet tall instead of 8.

The changes aren't drastic, but they could help make Oracle Park a friendlier place to hit, particularly for left-handed hitters like Belt.

“I don't think it's ever really a bad thing for a hitter when you move the fences in,” Belt said. “Eyeballing, it kind of seems the same out there. I didn't really notice a difference. But I definitely don't hate it, that they did move it in.”

Belt, who spent much of last season playing through a balky knee, batted .234 with 17 home runs and a career-low 98 OPS+ in 2019. He spent the offseason working on a swing adjustment that he hopes will allow him to deliver more line drives rather than long flyouts to the warning track at Oracle Park. He doesn't plan to deviate from that plan, even now that the fences aren't as far as they used to be.

“My goal is to have the best approach possible and to put the bat on the ball as well as I can,” Belt said. “Hopefully those dimensions do help out a little bit. But my goal is to stay gap to gap and to drive the ball. That doesn't always equate to home runs, but over time, it has equated to a lot of doubles and a lot of triples. I've done pretty well in that department. I'm not too concerned with the whole home run thing and moving in the fence. My main goal is to hit the ball as hard as I can.”

First-year Giants manager Gabe Kapler hasn't had as much exposure to Oracle Park's tendencies than other members of the organization, but he said he's seen a difference in how the new dimensions are playing, particularly during batting practice on Sunday morning, when young prospects like Joey Bart, Heliot Ramos, Luis Toribio and Patrick Bailey put on a show.

“These guys were out here crushing this morning,” Kapler said. “This ballpark was playing like a normal hitters' park, or I would say kind of like a middle-of-the road park. ... The ball travels pretty well during the day, so it's no surprise to see some balls carry out of the ballpark. However, I did notice some balls go out to center and right-center that might otherwise have been landing on the track. So that was kind of cool. It was fun to watch.”

Sunday standouts
Jeff Samardzija, Trevor Cahill, Shaun Anderson, Tony Watson and Rico Garcia were among the pitchers to throw live batting practice on Sunday. Kapler said he was particularly impressed by Anderson and Garcia, who signed a Minor League contract with the Giants in January.

“I had an opportunity to get out to the bullpen and watch Rico Garcia,” Kapler said. “Towards the end of camp, he was getting a little bit tired in our initial Spring Training and you could see some of the fatigue setting in. But today, the ball was really coming out well. I've seen his last two sessions in the 'pen. He's been able to locate his fastball. He's got a nice speed differential between his fastball and his changeup. Both of those things are encouraging.”

Kapler also said he was pleased with non-roster invitee Darin Ruf's at-bats against left-hander Andrew Suárez. Ruf, who spent the last three seasons playing in South Korea, hasn't appeared in the Majors since 2016, but he hit left-handed pitchers (.921 OPS) hard during his career with the Phillies. The Giants are likely to rely heavily on platoons this season, which could create a path for Ruf to make the team and draw regular starts at first base or designated hitter against lefties.

“I think that's exactly how we're thinking about it,” Kapler said. “We don't want Darin Ruf to be just one thing. We don't want him to be just a DH, or even just a first baseman or a left fielder. We want him to be a candidate to play all of those positions.”