Brandon Belt thrilled to be back on field after quick Giants return

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Belt thrilled to be back on field after quick Giants return originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO -- It took nearly a month for Brandon Belt to return to the roster after his latest knee flareup, longer than he and the team had hoped or anticipated. But when Belt did dig in late in Tuesday's win, it was clear that he had made notable changes during all that time on the Injured List.

After wearing black cleats for the first 15 games in City Connect jerseys, Belt had swapped over to a clean white pair, a much more fashionable look.

"I really tried to hold off on not getting white cleats," he said. "I didn't want to be a follower, but I had to because I looked so bad in the black ones."

The new cleats came into play right away. Belt saw one pitch in his first game since May 18 and took a grazing shot off his back foot. It was not exactly what he had drawn up, especially after such a long layoff, but he didn't care at all. He was just thrilled to be back on the field.

"It's not fun to sit out and watch your teammates go out there and battle it out every day, especially through times when they may be struggling a little bit and there's nothing you can do to help," he said. "It's just nice to be back out there and be with them."

The Giants are not a group built around one player, but if there is a hitter in the lineup who qualifies for "as he goes, they all go," it is Belt. He is capable of getting hot enough to carry the lineup for days or series at a time, which is rare on this roster. So far, that hasn't happened. Belt had an early positive COVID test and has missed 30 games overall, and his OPS is at just .733 when he has played, more than 200 points below last year's mark.

But the Giants know how much better they'll be when Belt and LaMonte Wade Jr. -- also nearing a return -- are options every day. That was clear to Gabe Kapler on Tuesday, when he got to bring Tommy La Stella, Mike Yastrzemski and Belt off the bench late in the game.

"This is what you visualize," he said. "It's not a full roster, but we're getting close, and that feels good."

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Wade could begin a rehab assignment this weekend as he works his way back from knee inflammation and hamstring tightness. Belt had his knee drained several times early in the year but has not had any issues in recent weeks, which were spent strengthening the muscles around his knee so he could more easily make it through the rest of the season.

Belt turned a corner in recent days and said he started to get excited when he realized he would be back soon. He hopes it's for the long haul this time.

"Doing what we did just to get back on the field is going to help me, and then it's making sure we do maintenance, getting in and doing the (physical) therapy, stuff like that," he said. "It's just making sure I'm taking care of what I need to take care of and I should stay on the field. There's some stuff that happens that you can't help and that might happen again, but I'm planning on coming in there and keeping it as strong as possible and playing every day."

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