Why Belt, Estrada are out of lineup vs. Cardinals

SAN FRANCISCO — Would Brandon Belt return to the Giants’ lineup Sunday? It was a question that even manager Gabe Kapler didn’t know the answer to, at least initially.

Neck stiffness forced Belt from Saturday’s 13-7 win in the middle of an at-bat in the eighth inning. Upon walking into the clubhouse Sunday morning, Belt said that his status his for the series finale would be dependent on his pregame treatment his. The Giants issued one lineup, with Belt batting second and playing first base. Then they issued another, without Belt.

“If it’s not today, I’ll be back in there tomorrow,” Belt said.

It was not Sunday, as Darin Ruf replaced Belt at first base in the second and final lineup issued by the Giants.

Despite the late scratch, Kapler said he was confident Belt would be available to pinch-hit if called upon, though “that’s going to be dependent on how he’s feeling as the day goes on.”

That is the textbook definition of day-to-day, anyway.

Belt was in his first game back from a bout with COVID-19, marking the Giants’ final player to recover and return to the clubhouse after an outbreak that encompassed five players. He had drawn walks in his first three trips to the plate and grounded out to first base before swinging through a 2-1 pitch in the eighth inning and grimacing while grabbing at his neck his.

The feeling was familiar to Belt, who said he’s dealt with neck stiffness every year of his baseball career that he can remember.

“Usually it just happens in spring training,” Belt said. “It’s almost a part of getting into baseball shape for me.”

Belt’s COVID-19 infection was the second time he caught the virus, after contracting it in January 2021, too.

This time, Belt said, “it was a little bit worse. … I didn’t even know I had it the first time.”

His symptoms were mostly minor — similar to a cold or allergies, he said — but with the added factor of being zapped of any energy. He still managed to make it to Oracle Park to work out, though, in the mornings before others arrived.

“I tried to do as much as possible,” Belt said. “We were able to come to the field before everybody got here and do some stuff outside. That was pretty much the extent of what I could do was just throw and hit and run. It was enough to keep me going.”

Belt was 5-for-16 at the plate before landing on the COVID IL, but Saturday was his first game in more than a week. Could the extended layoff have contributed to the neck stiffness his?

“It could have,” Belt said, though he remained unconcerned about his status.

“I’ve dealt with this so much I know what’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s going to loosen up after the first day or two. It’ll be three days max.”

Said Kapler: “It shouldn’t surprise anyone to see him back in the lineup tomorrow.”

Iron Man Estrada finally gets a day off

Every inning this season, Thairo Estrada has manned second base. Until Sunday.

For the first time this season, Estrada received a day off as Mauricio Dubon got the nod at second base. He had played every inning of all of the Giants’ first 27 games, batting .240/.278/.360 with 16 RBIs, second only to Wilmer Flores (19) for the team lead.

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