Giants beat writer Chris Haft shared his opinions with fans during a live chat on Monday. Topics discussed included the Giants' chances to repeat, Brandon Belt's chances to stay in the Majors and Aubrey Huff's play in the outfield.
Chris Haft: First of all, let me welcome you to this chat. Thank you for your interest, and for your questions. I appreciate each and every one.
shanedenne: Are the D-backs a good team this year?
Haft: Regarding the D-backs, I thought they were improved on paper. I still think they have a lot of potential, with Stephen Drew, Justin Upton and their starting pitching. But I think they need more bullpen help and overall depth before we can call them "good."
overthegiants: Do you think it was a bit to soon to bring up Belt? And how long do you think Huff can last in the outfield? He does not look good at all this year in left or right, in my opinion.
Haft: Regarding Belt, it's easy to second guess. I'll admit that I was a little bit surprised that he made the Opening Day roster; I thought the way the Giants handled Buster Posey last year set the example.
But the injury to Cody Ross changed all that.
My personal opinion is that Huff will remain in the outfield at least until Ross returns. But they might start subbing for him here and there late in games, much as they do with Pat Burrell.
tigger4260: How many shutouts does the whole team have?
Haft: One shutout: The 10-0 victory at L.A. in the third game of the year.
NickV: Do you feel that the return of Ross will benefit the Giants more offensively or defensively?
Haft: Directly, he'll have more of an effect on offense. His impact defensively will be a chain reaction, in that Huff will return to left field or first base, where he feels more comfortable.
NickV: Do you feel Barry Zito should be kept on a short leash? That is if these subpar performances continue.
Haft: He's a 200-inning guy. Let him pitch until he proves he can't do it any more. His first game was actually quite excellent, especially under the circumstances (not being able to prepare due to the auto accident), and yesterday he allowed only one run in five innings before he yielded 3 runs in the sixth.
And it's a different inning if Aaron Rowand holds onto Skip Schumaker's two-run double.
BayBall109: Who's your surprise All-Star from the Giants?
Haft: Pablo Sandoval. Maybe he's not that much of a surprise to anybody who has watched him play this year. He's a new man.
iamnotbe: What are the Giants going to do about Huff? He's a nice bat to have in the lineup, but defensively... let's just say he's better equipped to play first base. With the arrival of Belt and Ross due to come off the DL soon, how does Huff fare?
Haft: Put it this way: Giants management ought to know that they built their success on pitching and defense. I don't think this (Huff playing right field) will be a year-long thing.
emily18: When do you think Steve Edlefsen will make his Major League debut?
Haft: I wouldn't be surprised if he's the first reliever promoted when somebody in the bullpen gets hurt. But exactly when, I can't say.
PABLODIABLO: Giants need a leadoff hitter until Andres Torres gets healthy. What do you think about hitting Belt at leadoff? He's seems like a high on-base-percentage type of hitter that has decent speed and has the ability to steal some bases.
Haft: I heard somebody else (a media person) suggest this the other day. You're smart. But I think that might be too much to place on him. He's obviously struggling just to hit seventh.
mets100000: How do think the Mets will do this year?
Haft: Just instinctively, the first numbers that popped into my head were 75-87. Let's call that an over/under.
SayHeyBort: What are your thoughts on Darren Ford?
Haft: If he can learn to hit -- heck, if can learn to BUNT -- he'll have a job in the Majors. Because his speed is something else.
iamnotbe: Is Brian Wilson going to be able to handle the added media attention and pressure, not to mention any lingering problems from the injuries?
Haft: Definitely. He's one of those types of guys who thrives on the attention and pressure. If anything drags him down, it'll be the injuries, as you mentioned.
norfolka: How long do you think Posey will be with the Giants? I think after last year's performance he will stay with them for a while. Who is the superstar pitcher on the team?
Haft: Buster will be a Giant at least for five more years -- until he's eligible for free agency. At that point, unless they sign him long term, all bets are off.
Who is the superstar pitcher on the team? Tim Lincecum, of course, though Matt Cain's not far off.
iamnotbe: Mark DeRosa and Rowand have impressed early on in the season so far. How long until they get more at-bats and playing time?
Haft: Well, Rowand is playing more now due to Torres' injury. And I expect DeRosa to receive more activity as a late-inning replacement and part-time starter.
zhays64: Do you think that our bullpen can return to the dominance that we saw last year?
Haft: It's going to be difficult to duplicate that kind of dominance (hey, lots of "d" words there). But if there's a falloff, I don't think it'll be too great.
PABLODIABLO: I thought I read somewhere that Belt is a candidate to play some corner outfield. Why not swap Huff and Belt defensively? I know Huff is the "best athlete on the team," but wouldn't the team be better off if Huff was at the position in which he's clearly more comfortable?
Haft: I'd ordinarily say that might be in the cards, but with Belt playing no outfield during Spring Training, it's less of a possibility.
datruebow: What is your analysis on why Rowand is a good pinch hitter but not a good starter?
Haft: An excellent question. He probably wouldn't like my answer, but I think he waits for a better pitch to hit when he comes off the bench.
giantsloco: How will the Giants effectively keep their young pitching staff intact moving forward, with so many contracts set to expire in the next few seasons?
Haft: Somebody's going to have to go. Or, if they hike the payroll and integrate more guys making the minimum (like Ford and/or shortstop Brandon Crawford) onto the team, they might be able to do some creative stuff.
Haft: Folks, I'm already swamped with questions and I have time for only a few more before I rush down to the clubhouse. If you haven't already submitted a question, please refrain, because I just won't get to it. Again, thanks for your participation.
SFWally: What should the Giants do with Huff if we're going to stay with Belt at first?
Haft: They'll have to suck it up and accept more of what we've seen.
rawex5: With Ross coming off the DL soon and the struggles with Belt, will he be sent down or sit on the bench?
Haft: If Belt's still hitting below .200, I can't imagine he'll stay up here.
overthegiants: The NL West division was a tough win last year, what improvements have the Giants made to be more dominant in their own division?
Haft: I think the bullpen is potentially deeper, and so's the rotation with Madison Bumgarner at No. 5. But they still need more offensive consistency.
adkins4: Who's going to get the short end of the stick when Ross comes back? Nate Schierholz, Rowand or Belt?
Haft: Depends on whether Torres is on the DL at the time. If he is, all three will stay.
overthegiants: Brian Wilson's shoes appear to be more orange again. Will MLB force him to add more black again?
Haft: My guess is that his current shoes were pre-approved.
emily18: Who do you think we'll see up from Triple-A Fresno this season?
Haft: As mentioned earlier, possibly Edlefsen and Ford. Ryan Vogelsong and Marc Kroon also are possibilities.
friarfever: Do you really think that the Giants are going to repeat as World Series champs, let alone repeat as NL West champions?
Haft: The odds say no. But you've got to play the season anyway, right?
emily18: Who's your pick for the AL East? And do you think the Rangers will stay hot?
Haft: AL East? Even with their so-so rotation, I'll go with the Yankees. The Rangers will stay GOOD, but it's impossible to stay this hot.
baseruns: What's the schedule on Torres?
Haft: Ask again on Wednesday, when he gets re-examined.
jaemoney22: How many more chances is Belt going to be given to remain in the lineup batting under .200? I think when Ross comes back, manager Bruce Bochy has some big decisions to make, and sending Belt down to Fresno might be one of them.
Haft: As mentioned earlier, you're absolutely on the right track. I can't imagine Belt staying if he's under .200 when Ross returns.
NickV: If they do move Huff from outfield to 1B, where does Belt go? I know he played outfield in the Minors sporadically, but can he be used there or should he be kept on the bench as a backup 1B?
Haft: Belt needs to play every day. If Huff returns to first base, Belt's Fresno-bound.
friarfever: Although it is early in his career, where do you see Lincecum on the list of the best pitchers of all time? The guy is a total beast.
Haft: It's too early to rank him among the best. Those guys did it for 10 years or more. Give Timmy six more years, and then we can talk about a Hall of Fame candidacy.
sdderek: Once Torres returns, the outfield is still crowded. Something's gotta give. Who do you think's gonna lose their job when everyone is healthy?
Haft: Don't forget about Ross. As we've been discussing, Belt might go to Fresno if he's still struggling.
Esoteric: What do you think Sandoval's batting average will be at the end of the year?
Haft: At this point, it sure as heck looks like he'll be above .300. Not bad, huh?
melhalloffame: What do you make of the rash of oblique strains and appendectomies to start the season?
Haft: The appendectomies are purely coincidence, but it's sure weird. As for the oblique strains, I think some guys try TOO hard.
jaemoney22: Can the Giants EVER trade Zito and the monster contract this year, especially since he's put together a few good starts so far this season?
Haft: It'd have to be a situation where (a) the Giants are willing to assume most or all of his contract, and (b) another team really, really wants him.
minimejsf: Hey, Chris, what do you do with Burrell when Ross comes back?
Haft: I imagine he'll remain on the 25-man active roster. He's viewed as an integral part of the clubhouse chemistry. But I could be wrong if he's hitting under .200, also.
Haft: That's all folks. Got to get on with other aspects of my day job. Again, many thanks for participating and for following!
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.