SF@LAD: Belt takes pitch to hand, leaves game

LOS ANGELES -- Giants first baseman Brandon Belt is expected to be sidelined for at least six weeks after suffering a broken left thumb during San Francisco's 3-1 victory on Friday night over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy issued the estimate for Belt's absence, which could become clearer on Saturday. Bochy said that's when Belt, 26, is scheduled to return to San Francisco to visit a hand specialist. Belt incurred the injury when he was hit on the hand by an 87-mph fastball from Dodgers left-hander Paul Maholm on the first pitch of the second inning.

Belt's injury tempered the Giants' excitement over their 12th triumph in 15 games overall and sixth in eight games this year against the rival Dodgers.

"It's the old bittersweet thing," Bochy said.

Belt's batting .264 and ranks among the National League leaders with a team-high nine home runs, clobbering at least one in each city where the Giants have played this year (Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Denver, Atlanta and Pittsburgh). Belt also has contributed solid defense.

Bochy called losing Belt "a blow for us. [He's] a guy who hits in the heart of our order; the job he does at first base. You realize you lost him for about six weeks, probably."

Said left-hander Madison Bumgarner, "It stinks for all of us, especially him. Just a tough thing to go through. He's going to be facing some adversity right now, but he'll come out of it fine and hopefully we can fight through it until he gets back."

Bochy planned to talk with general manager Brian Sabean about the Giants' options for replacing Belt, who started 32 of the club's first 36 games. Bochy mentioned playing catcher Buster Posey, who has started four games at first base, more frequently at that position. Bochy also raised the possibility of integrating catcher Hector Sanchez and left fielder Michael Morse into the first-base mix.

Sanchez looked sharp in a Cactus League appearance at first base. Morse hasn't played the position this year but has appeared in 130 games at first during his Major League career, starting 100.

The Giants recently reacquired Travis Ishikawa, who started 25 games at first base for the 2010 World Series-winning club. But since Ishikawa is not on the 40-man roster, summoning him to the Majors from Triple-A Fresno would require removing a player from the 40-man contingent. One possible reinforcement from Fresno who Bochy did mention was Adam Duvall, whose primary position has been third base.

Friday, utility man Joaquin Arias replaced Belt, who remained in the game to run the bases after he was hit but departed before the Giants went out on defense.

Cain's return leaves Giants with roster decision

COL@SF: Cain fans eight, gives up one run over seven

LOS ANGELES -- The simple act of reinstating right-hander Matt Cain from the disabled list to start Saturday afternoon against the Los Angeles Dodgers could be coupled with the not-so-simple act of trimming the roster.

Manager Bruce Bochy and the rest of San Francisco's braintrust must determine whether expanding the pitching staff to 13 and functioning with only four reserve position players is preferable to retaining the current five-man bench and 12-pitcher contingent.

"We started talking about that a few days ago," Bochy said.

Bochy made that remark before first baseman Brandon Belt was sidelined for an estimated six weeks with a broken left thumb during Friday night's 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Though placing Belt on the disabled list could be coupled with Cain's return, Bochy cited the possibility of making multiple moves.

Regardless of how the Giants accommodate Cain's return, they'll again face the roster-balancing conundrum -- probably quite soon -- when left-hander David Huff returns from the DL. Huff's left quadriceps injury appeared to be a non-issue Thursday night when he pitched three shutout innings for Triple-A Fresno against El Paso.

Due to the recovery time Huff will need following Thursday's workload, the Giants probably won't make a roster move involving him for at least another couple of days. Bochy pointed out that Huff's ability to pitch multiple innings gives the Giants another viable long-relief option besides Yusmeiro Petit.

Hicks holds his ground at second base

SF@ATL: Crawford starts a double play

LOS ANGELES -- Brandon Hicks' ability to turn double plays even when opposing baserunners are bearing down on him has hastened his emergence as the Giants' primary second baseman.

Hicks most recently demonstrated this skill in the seventh inning of Thursday night's 3-1, 10-inning victory of the Dodgers. He took shortstop Brandon Crawford's toss and unflinchingly released a perfect relay to first base despite Carl Crawford's oncoming presence.

Giants bench coach Ron Wotus, a former infielder who has spent 36 years in professional baseball, said Friday that Hicks turns double plays "as well as anybody I've seen." Wotus added that Hicks' toughness and efficiency account for the Giants' proficiency at recording double plays. They entered Friday tied for third in the Major Leagues with 40 twin killings.

Last year, the Giants ranked next to last in the National League with 128 double plays.

"That's something you look for in a second baseman -- a guy who'll stay in there and take the hit, a guy who wants to turn the double play more than get out of the way," Wotus added, praising Hicks further. "We're turning more double plays because of that. There's no question about it."

Hicks, who hustled his way from the list of non-roster Spring Training invitees onto the Opening Day roster, acknowledged that he tries to ignore the danger of being the double-play middleman.

"You really don't want to think about it, because then you won't be able to make the throw," Hicks said.

Technique helps Hicks as much as attitude.

"He has a very quick exchange [from gloving the ball to throwing it]," Wotus said. "He's able to get the ball on the way and then take the hit and fall."