PHILADELPHIA -- The Giants don't want Carlos Beltran to change a thing, including his jersey number.All Beltran must do to help the Giants is maintain, even approach, the level of performance that has typified his 14 Major League seasons.
"I just have to come to the ballpark every day, do my routine, take the field, play hard and do the best I can," said Beltran, a career .282 hitter who entered Thursday batting .289 with 15 home runs and 66 RBIs. As anticipated, Beltran started in right field and batted third for the Giants in the series finale against the Philadelphia Phillies.If sustaining Beltran's production means keeping him comfortable and issuing him the number that he has worn for the past 10 years, so be it.
Thus, Giants manager Bruce Bochy didn't hesitate to relinquish his No. 15 to Beltran, who was obtained from the New York Mets to buttress San Francisco's offense."I'm not really sentimental about the number. I'm not playing," said Bochy, who switched to No. 16. "I have my jacket on for the most part, anyway. I want the player to be comfortable. I know as a player you get used to a number. So I was glad to give it up. I think 15's been on the bench long enough." Beltran appreciated Bochy's gesture. "I'm just happy he was willing to pass me No. 15," Beltran said. "I made a joke with him earlier, [asking] if he wants a watch with diamonds or without diamonds."
Giants general manager Brian Sabean wouldn't mind finding another gem or two. Having acquired Beltran and second baseman Jeff Keppinger to deepen San Francisco's lineup, Sabean is still hunting for a catcher or shortstop to upgrade the Giants further. But when asked on a conference call whether the market for players at those positions had improved, Sabean replied, "Not really."That's partly why Sabean felt compelled to trade right-hander Zack Wheeler, the Giants' No. 1 selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, to the Mets for Beltran. "I truly hate that we gave up a really good prospect," Sabean said. "But we're at an interesting place in time."
Translation: The Giants are in win-now mode, and Sabean said that the organization didn't expect Wheeler to contribute at the Major League level for another few years."We owed it to the city, we owed it to the players on the field and in a lot of ways, we owed it to the fans," Sabean said. "When you're defending world champions, you have to try to defend that title any way you can." The urgency Sabean felt gnawed at him after catcher Buster Posey sustained his season-ending left ankle injury on May 25.
"Once Posey went down, I thought we were dead in the water with being able to replace him," Sabean said. "Carlos has a chance to do that."Though the Giants were rumored to be interested in other productive outfielders, such as Minnesota's Michael Cuddyer and Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton, Sabean confirmed that Beltran was the player he sought most ardently. Sabean recalled initiating talks with Mets general manager Sandy Alderson on July 1.
"We always had one foot in the door," said Sabean, who related that as he returned home from Monday's White House visit, he received a phone call from Alderson that "rekindled" trade talks.Willing to waive the no-trade clause in his contract to join a contending team, Beltran seized the opportunity to become a Giant.
"Of course I said yes, after what these guys did last year with pitching," he said. "And, they're in first place, so it was an easy decision for me to make."Beltran, 34, has never homered in 96 plate appearances at AT&T Park, though he owns a .310 batting average there (27-for-87).
"I think it's a different ballpark than any in the big leagues," he said. "The ball doesn't carry as much as it carrries in other places. But I'm not thinking about that. I'm just going to go there and try to have quality at-bats. If I have quality at-bats and get on base and do the job, I think everything will take care of itself."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.