SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Giants position players were expected to report to camp by Feb. 22, but first baseman Brandon Belt has yet to participate in on-field workouts at Scottsdale Stadium due to a “non-COVID illness.”
Manager Gabe Kapler said Belt is improving, but he didn’t provide a timeline for when the 32-year-old veteran might be healthy enough to resume baseball activities with the Giants.
“Belt is feeling a little bit better,” Kapler said following the Giants’ 1-1, six-inning tie against the Rangers on Monday at Surprise Stadium. “He was definitely wiped out from the non-COVID illness. He continues to improve, but he’s still lacking some energy. It’s getting a little bit better, but that’s where we are with him.”
Belt’s availability for Opening Day had already been in question after he underwent surgery to remove a bone spur from his right heel in October. In their most recent medical update last month, the Giants said Belt had started a running progression and was throwing and hitting, but it’s unclear how much his current malady will set him back for the club’s April 1 opener in Seattle.
If Belt isn’t ready for the start of the season, the Giants could opt to deploy Tommy La Stella, Wilmer Flores or Darin Ruf at first base. Flores and Ruf have already drawn starts at first in the Giants’ first two exhibition games of the spring.
Right-hander Nick Tropeano worked around a two-out double to Nate Lowe to post a scoreless first inning in his start against the Rangers on Monday. Tropeano, who is in camp as a non-roster invitee, managed to strand Lowe at second by striking out Rougned Odor on a splitter to end the inning.
“I really wanted to fine-tune my offspeed pitches,” Tropeano said. “I ran into a little more deep counts than I wanted to today, but I felt like I had a pretty good feel for them.”
Tropeano is being stretched out as a starter this spring, but he’s also a candidate to serve as a swingman and could potentially be used as a multi-inning reliever out of the bullpen. The 30-year-old knows pitching coach Andrew Bailey well from their days with the Angels, but he said Kapler also played a big role in recruiting him to the Giants this offseason.
“I think it led to Kapler giving me a call in the offseason,” Tropeano said. “Just his positive energy, the way that he’s straightforward and the type of guy that he is. I think that’s what kind of put me over the hill to come play for the Giants. Kap just showing that he believed in me the way that I believed in myself. That was one of the main reasons.”
Tropeano served primarily as a starter for the Astros and Angels from 2014-19, logging a 4.38 ERA out of the rotation, but he found greater success after shifting to relief last year with the Pirates. The New York native recorded a 1.15 ERA over seven appearances in 2020, racking up 19 strikeouts over 15 2/3 innings.
“I’m willing to help this team in any way, whether it be starting, opening, multi-relief role, high-leverage innings, whatever it is,” Tropeano said. “I’m here to help this team win. I think it helps me, being versatile.”
• Right-handed relievers Dedniel Núñez and Kervin Castro impressed in their first Cactus League appearances of the spring on Monday, firing a scoreless inning apiece against the Rangers. Núñez, a Rule 5 Draft pick, yielded back-to-back singles with two outs, but he emerged unscathed after inducing an inning-ending flyout from Jason Martin in the fourth.
“I think at this point, we feel more confident [with Núñez] than we did last year at this time with Dany Jimenez,” Kapler said. “Núñez has come out and attacked with strikes, and he’s kind of showing us the stuff that made him attractive to us in the first place.”
Castro, meanwhile, hit 97 mph with his fastball and flashed a nice curveball while working a 1-2-3 fifth.
“He continues to impress,” Kapler said. “He’s impressed early and often.”
• Joey Bart caught three innings for the Giants and finished 2-for-2 with a pair of singles. Heliot Ramos also collected his first hit of the spring with a leadoff single in the sixth and scored the Giants’ lone run of the game on a two-out double by Jason Krizan.
The Giants will host the Dodgers on Tuesday night at Scottsdale Stadium at 6:05 p.m. PT. Right-hander Logan Webb will make his Cactus League debut and start opposite Los Angeles righty Walker Buehler. Camilo Doval, Wandy Peralta, Sam Selman, Matt Wisler, Tyler Rogers and Dominic Leone are also scheduled to pitch for the Giants.