03/22/2013 9:24 PM ET
Pagan was proud to represent Puerto Rico
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Angel Pagan wanted to do more than just play baseball on behalf of his brethren. He intended to revive it for them.
Pagan did as much as he humanly could to accomplish both goals while playing for Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. The Giants center fielder made the All-Classic team by batting .364 with a .447 on-base percentage. His 12 hits set a Classic record for a Puerto Rican player.
Pagan helped Puerto Rico reach the Classic finals, where it lost to the Dominican Republic, but there was a subtext to his efforts. Pagan wanted to remind Puerto Ricans, particularly youths, that baseball is a grand, joyous sport worth playing.
"I gave honor to my country. That was my plan from Day One," Pagan said Friday, speaking to reporters for the first time since he returned from the Classic. "I wanted to be the best shape possible to bring a positive message to my country."
Noting that fewer Puerto Rican children grow up loving the game, Pagan added, "Obviously, baseball has been decreasing a little bit in my country. Kids are not really interested in sports anymore. We want to show that it's still alive, that there's still good baseball players and baseball hasn't gone anywhere. We wanted to be an example to these kids."
Pagan believed that he and his teammates made a positive impact, given the attention that Puerto Ricans devoted to the Classic.
"To me, that's the difference," Pagan said. "We didn't win, but I think we made a statement. So I'm happy with that."
Giants outfielder and fellow Puerto Rican Andres Torres said that he congratulated Pagan for his efforts on the field and away from it.
"I told him, 'Amazing,'" Torres said.
Panda, Scutaro, Torres still nursing injuries
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, second baseman Marco Scutaro and outfielder Andres Torres remained sidelined Friday, but none of their injuries appeared to be serious.
Sandoval (right elbow) was "feeling a lot better," manager Bruce Bochy said. The Giants originally indicated that Sandoval might test his elbow with some sort of baseball-related activity Saturday, but Bochy said that he wasn't sure whether it will happen.
Scutaro (lower back stiffness) will need at least another day or two of rest, Bochy said.
Torres (sore left foot) intends to play Saturday.
"It's fine," said Torres, who was removed for precautionary reasons Thursday night after doubling in the fourth inning against Colorado.
Four-hit outburst has Belt brimming with confidence
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Brandon Belt fell short and exceeded expectations at once Friday afternoon.
Having doubled, homered and singled in his first three plate appearances, the Giants' first baseman lacked a triple to complete the cycle. But a three-base hit wasn't enough for Belt, who finished a 4-for-4 performance by drilling a two-run homer off Miguel Batista in the seventh inning of an eventual 11-6 win over the Rockies.
"We were kidding that he had a shot at the cycle, and he outdid that," manager Bruce Bochy said.
Belt has performed at a higher level all spring. Friday's outburst hiked his batting average to .439. He leads the Giants with 12 runs scored, six homers and 16 RBIs.
"It's the time of year when it's getting close to Opening Day and you want to try to stay as locked in as possible," Belt said. "I'm seeing the ball well right now and feeling pretty good. I'm ready to get started."
Technically, Belt said that he's benefiting from solid timing and proper hitting mechanics. As a result, he's seeing pitches better.
"I'm hitting balls that I should be hitting hard," Belt said. "I don't think I was prepared when I went up there earlier in my career. There's a lot of times that I swung at pitches out of the [strike] zone; I didn't swing at pitches in the zone. I finally feel like I'm on track now."
It's generally accepted among the Giants that Belt's mental approach is the biggest difference. His self-assurance fluctuated in his previous two seasons. Now, Bochy said, "He's got so much confidence."
Belt acknowledged that he's more adept at coping with the game's inevitable highs and lows.
"Obviously it's baseball and there are going to be some tough times," Belt said, "but I'm not the same player I was, just from the mental aspect. I know what to expect. I know there are going to be some bumps in the road, but I also know I can come out on the other side. So I'm going in with a lot more confidence this year."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.