SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Brandon Belt’s detour to San Francisco’s spring training camp took him through Florida, and he was more than happy to make the trip.
Belt reported to the Giants in time for Thursday’s workout after traveling between Scottsdale Nacogdoches, Texas, and Tampa Bay, Fla., where he signed a one-year deal worth $2.9 million and avoided an arbitration hearing.
“It was probably not the ideal way you’d like to go,” Belt said. “It’s been an exhausting process and nerve wracking. I’m glad it’s over.”
While the contract was something he has been waiting for since turning professional, he’s happy he can concentrate on baseball again.
His first order of business? Facing Jeremy Affeldt and Madison Bumgarner in live batting practice.
“That’s awesome, it’s great,” Belt said. “This is actually the first year I’ve faced the big guys in spring training. I’ve faced the minor leaguers before now. It’s a good test, I guess.”
Belt, who hit .289 with 17 home runs and 67 RBIs last year, had been working out in Scottsdale before heading to the arbitration meeting scheduled for the Tampa Bay area.
He and his agent worked hard in preparation for the meeting and Belt felt ready for it.
“You have to stay balanced mentally as much as possible,” he said. “You want to get something done but at the same time there’s the business part of it and you have to stick with that process. There was a lot of stuff going on. I guess that’s part of why I’m glad it’s over.”
Belt was in a hotel room, alone after dinner plans were scratched, when he got a call asking him to come downstairs. It was about midnight.
“It was a magical number to me,” Belt said. “I’ve been waiting on a phone call like that since I was in high school.”
Belt was a highly-regarded pitcher out of high school, though a shoulder injury affected the speed of his fastball, when the Boston Red Sox drafted him in the 11th round in 2006.
The two sides could not come to an agreement and Belt attended a junior college for a year before transferring to Texas the next two years.
It was after his sophomore season that Texas scrapped his pitching plans and moved him to first base, where he began learning the art of hitting. The Giants drafted him in the fifth round in 2009.
“I expected to get close to that when I was in high school,” Belt said. “It didn’t happen and then I wasn’t expecting to play pro ball. I can’t believe it right now. I guess it will sink in when I start to get my paychecks during the season.”
Giants GM Brian Sabaen said recently he’s open to the idea of signing Belt to a multiyear deal.
“Anybody would be open to a long-term extension, especially with this organization,” Belt said. “We’ll have to wait and see.”
As for facing Affeldt and Bumgarner, Belt didn’t fare so well. Given the chance to face coaches in regular batting practice, Belt looked much better.
NOTES: RHP Santiago Casilla is the only absentee for the Giants. He remains in the Dominican Republic with visa issues. . OF Mike Morse crushed a pitch from LHP Edwin Escobar that bounced off a barrier behind the fence and caromed onto the field with a loud thud. . Giants manager Bruce Bochy said it was a positive sign that pitchers did not hit anybody during the first BP, meaning the pitchers had command. . RHP Tim Hudson is expected to throw BP on Friday.