Brandon Belt might still be in San Francisco right now had he collected just four more singles in his 17 big league games, a total that would have increased his average from .192 to .269. But he didn't get those hits, and somebody had to vacate the premises when Cody Ross came off the disabled list.
However, Belt has made the most of his time with Triple-A Fresno and may return to the big leagues a better player for the demotion. He's playing left field on an everyday basis (after playing first base in the big leagues) while producing a batting line reminiscent of a record-breaking Giants left fielder of recent vintage.
After going 4-for-5 with a double and two RBIs yesterday, Belt now is batting .517/.622/.862 (15-for-29) with two homers, four doubles and 10 RBIs. After showing uncommon discipline for a 23-year-old rookie in San Francisco (eight walks, 13 strikeouts), he has eight walks and eight strikeouts in Triple-A.
Hats Off To Harper
Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper entered play on April 20 batting just .231 with one home run to show for his first two weeks in pro ball. He collected two hits that day, another the following night and then three on April 22.
After going 3-for-3 with a double (his eighth) and two walks for low Class A Hagerstown yesterday, Harper now has 18 hits in his last 37 at-bats (.486) with five homers and seven doubles, collecting hits in 10 of 11 games. He's driven in 13 runs during his hot spell while showing a balanced strikeout-to-walk ratio of eight apiece.
Few Lemons In Shelby-ville
Cardinals righthander Shelby Miller notched nine strikeouts in his 2011 debut and then 11 in his second start. He split the difference yesterday, fanning 10 Bradenton batters in six innings of work to lead high Class A Palm Beach to victory, 5-1.
Miller's gem comes on the heels of an April 25 dud against the same Marauders squad, a game in which he allowed four runs on two hits in 4 1/3 innings. Miller could find neither the strike zone (seven walks) nor his catcher's glove (four wild pitches) in that start. The Cardinals have gotten all they could have hoped for from the 20-year-old Miller, who leads the Florida State League with 42 strikeouts, 12 more than the runners-up.
Other pitchers with double-digit strikeout totals: Giants Double-A Richmond lefty Eric Surkamp retired 10 of the 23 New Britain batters he faced via strikeout. The 23-year-old has registered 10 whiffs three times already this season and leads the Eastern League with 41 total.
Taillon Tunes Up
The second pick in last year's draft, one spot behind Harper, Pirates righthander Jameson Taillon made a tune-up start for low Class A West Virginia last Wednesday before stretching past 50 pitches yesterday—but not too far past 50. Taillon completed four scoreless innings to kick off the Power's 3-0 shutout of Greensboro. He struck out six, walked none and allowed just three baserunners on two hits and a hit batter.
Around The Minors
• Yamaico Navarro has played every position except catcher and first base for Triple-A Pawtucket this season. Combined with his heavy hitting (.321/.430/.607 through 84 at-bats), he could make for an attractive utility player if the need arises in Boston this season. Yesterday, Navarro connected for two home runs against Toledo's Chris Oxspring (giving him four on the year) and a double (eight) as part of a 3-for-5 showing. Among International League batters, only Buffalo's Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Pawtucket's Josh Reddick have more extra-base hits than the 23-year-old Navarro, and by a narrow 15-14 margin.
Other batters to hit two or more home runs: Triple-A Charlotte shortstop Eduardo Escobar (White Sox) launched two homers—his first two of the year—at home against Columbus lefty Scott Barnes. Escobar's hitting just .231, but eight of his 18 hits have gone for extra bases . . . Playing left field for Double-A Montgomery, primary catcher Stephen Vogt (Rays) blasted two home runs (after hitting one Saturday) as part of a 3-for-5 day. The reigning FSL hitting and slugging champ, Vogt is batting .333/.389/.609 through 87 at-bats.
• Rockies lefty reliever Rex Brothers allowed five runs in a one-inning, eight-batter appearances on Friday, but he settled back in to pitch a scoreless inning for Triple-A Colorado Springs yesterday, striking out two of the four batters he faced. That's been a common outcome this season for Brothers, the 34th overall pick in 2009, who has retired 23 of 59 batters (38.9 percent) on strikeouts.
Brothers' IL doppelganger would be Durham righty reliever Brandon Gomes with 22 whiffs among 54 batters faced (40.7 percent).
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