SF Giants: Brandon Belt nears return; Matthew Boyd suffers setback

SAN FRANCISCO — Walking up the tunnel to the Giants clubhouse Monday afternoon, Brandon Belt ran into a couple reporters.

“Here’s an inside scoop,” he said, “I’ll be back soon.”

When?

“Probably this series.”

Belt, however, wasn’t activated for San Francisco’s series opener Monday night against the Kansas City Royals. It was the 23rd game he has missed with inflammation in his right knee. The Giants host the Royals for two more after Monday, then hit the road for a seven-game swing through Pittsburgh and Atlanta.

Manager Gabe Kapler hedged a bit on Belt’s timeline but struck an optimistic tone about his work over the past few days.

“I think he’s getting really close to giving us a chance to activate him,” Kapler said. “We just have to decide when the best time for that is. It could be these last couple games with the Royals (or) could be when we go on the road. But we’re not far away.”

Belt has ramped up the intensity of his baseball activities recently, and Kapler called the last couple days “his best in a really long time.” Before Monday’s game, Belt took part in a live BP session with Matthew Boyd on the mound (more on that later).

Part of the reason for Belt’s extended absence has been working on his conditioning — primarily strengthening his quad — to ensure knee issue don’t continue to pop up this season. Belt also missed the majority of spring training with knee inflammation, and he’s missed more time this season with a neck issue and time on the COVID list.

“Several things have been at play for Brandon,” Kapler said. “Number one, how well he’s recovering. Number two, and equally important, is building up the strength in his quad to protect the knee.”

Belt has missed 34 of the Giants’ 60 games this season following Monday. When healthy, however, the 34-year-old still provides an important middle-of-the order bat. He hit four home runs in his first 39 at-bats during a torrid start to the season but cooled off since the calendar turned to May and was homerless in his past 62 at-bats before landing on the IL.

Boyd’s live BP shut down

The Giants have two starters’ returns on the horizon — Alex Cobb and Anthony DeSclafani — and they were hopeful about a third when left-hander Matthew Boyd stepped on the mound Monday afternoon at Oracle Park.

Boyd, who signed an incentive-laden $5.2 million contract this offseason, was set to throw his first live BP session since undergoing surgery on the flexor tendon in his left elbow last September. It marked a step forward from the bullpen sessions he has been ramping up since spring training.

The session, however, was cut short when Boyd felt discomfort in his surgically repaired elbow.

“That’s not necessarily of any setback or long-term thing,” Kapler said. “He just didn’t feel particularly comfortable on the mound really letting it go, so we stopped that and cut that short.”

Boyd, who had a 3.89 ERA in 15 starts before being shut down last season, was eying a July return to the big leagues.

Kapler said the Giants still view him as a potential member of their rotation this season.

“That doesn’t mean he can’t fill other roles, but that’s the vision for him right now,” Kapler said.

Notable

  • Belt and LaMonte Wade Jr. took part in Boyd’s live BP, however Belt was the only one to swing a bat. Wade (left knee inflammation) stood in and is still at least a few days away from embarking on a rehab assignment. He was scheduled to report to Triple-A Sacramento last Thursday but felt his left hamstring tighten up while running the bases.
  • Players and coaches were happy to see Steven Duggar in the clubhouse Monday afternoon. He received hugs and enthusiastic greetings from Darin Ruf, Joc Pederson, Brandon Crawford and first-base/outfield coach Antoan Richardson, who bear-hugged him and hoisted him into the air. Duggar (left oblique strain) was merely making a pitstop before catching Sacramento’s team flight to Tacoma as he continues his rehab assignment. Duggar has played eight games so far, with six hits in 25 at-bats (.240) and a stolen base.
  • On Sunday, Alex Cobb (neck/back tightness) threw a “really good bullpen,” according to Kapler. He is scheduled to throw a live BP session Tuesday, which would set him up to possibly start Sunday in Pittsburgh, the day he is eligible to be activated. Anthony DeSclafani (right ankle inflammation) will make his second and potentially final rehab start Thursday, also setting him up to potentially start on the day he is eligible to be activated, next Tuesday in Atlanta.

Contributed by local news sources

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