When the Giants open the National League Division Series on Friday night, they’ll do so with either Darin Ruf, Wilmer Flores, or LaMonte Wade Jr. at first base. Belt, as disappointed as he is to be out of the show and maybe longer with a broken thumb on his left hand, sees it as normal.
It’s not like the Giants have never done it. Belt leads the team with 29 homers, but has only been injured in 97 games with four stints.
« I feel great doing it, » said Belt on Wednesday during a Giants training session at Oracle Park. “It was really like this the whole season. When one went down, another went up. And we have a lot of very good professional ball players here.
“I think our chances of getting to the next round are very good because we have a really full ball club and we know how to go out and win ball games and I think that won’t change if I do am in the line-up or not. I’m excited to see what happens and look forward to getting out of the playoffs later. »
While Belt’s defensive prowess is irreplaceable in first base, he is right as the Giants are uniquely qualified to replace a key player as manager Gabe Kapler has created an environment in which he is offensive with little to no dropoff mix and play.
Kapler even went so far as to include Tommy La Stella and Kris Bryant as potential first basemen, but the reality is that neither played for the Giants first in 2021, and options for the NLDS will likely be on reputation, Flores and Wade fall – all of whom have made important contributions not only on a first base but elsewhere over the course of a 107-victory season.
Ruf, who hit .271 with 16 homers that season, was a .309 hitter with nine homers and 22 RBIs in 43 games at first base. Flores (.262 with 18 homers) is a .333 hitter at first base with two homers and 10 RBIs in 30 games. The trio’s lone left-handed Wade only hit .218 in 27 games at first base but nine of his 18 homers in 27 games at the position.
« The kind of players we are, we are always ready when they need us, » said Flores. “The good thing about this team is that everyone knows their role and is ready to get it right,” said Flores. « We won a lot of games when the bank came through and if the bank weren’t ready we wouldn’t win those games. »
While Wade drew attention to himself with his heroics « Late Night LaMonte » in coupling situations, Ruf and Flores were more anonymous – partly because both players keep their emotions in check and not seek the limelight.
Darin Ruf (left) and Lamonte Wade Jr. discuss strategy at First Base during infield practice Wednesday at Oracle Park. « Ruf and Flores are two of the better right-handers in baseball, in my opinion, » said Chaplain. “Wilmer Flores represents that calm that we talk about better than anyone. I would be shocked if someone could talk about a time when they were out of temper or in some way out of shape. He’s just an absolute professional and I think the world of these two guys. »
Ruf, 35, knew Flores through baseball in the minor league, Phillies and Flores in the New York Mets.
« I mean, he’s like me in that he’s so balanced, » said Ruf. « You can tell when he’s excited, but it’s not overly excited if you think, ‘Wilmer, calm down a bit.’ You could get a smile out of him. »
« With baseball stuff or without baseball, I just am, » said Flores. “I don’t go too hard on myself. I never get mad. I’m not trying. But I learned from baseball that even if you don’t get the job done, you always get chances. You will get another good punch. »
Wade, 27, was a sponge when it came to gathering information about beating not just Ruf and Flores, but cornerstones like Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, and Evan Longoria.
« Any time you can get information from them and try to see the game through their lens, it will be beneficial, » said Wade. « Against guys I’ve never met before, going to an at-bat, hearing their game plan and giving them an idea of what to expect and what to expect there is huge. »
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The nice thing about all three potential first basemen is that they will be needed elsewhere, regardless of which belt replaces in the lineup. Flores also played third base and a small second base. Ruf is a corner outfielder in the left and right fields, and everyone has done their share of pinch hits (Flores has two pinch homers, Ruf and Wade one each).
Flores said he doesn’t consider himself a banker, but simply a baseball player, and he has a lot of company in that regard.
« I want to be out there as much as possible and if I don’t start that day I’ll always be ready, » said Flores. “One thing Kap does is bring out the best team that day. We understand that and we are always ready. «
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