- Associated Press - Saturday, February 26, 2011

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. (AP) - The hype surrounding Brandon Belt compares to that around Buster Posey two years back.

Posey is now the reigning NL Rookie of the Year. The San Francisco Giants have equally lofty hopes for the highly touted Belt, their fifth-round pick in the 2009 draft.

Especially after what the sure-handed first baseman showed last year in his first season of pro ball: batting .352 with 23 home runs and 112 RBIs in 136 games between high Class A, Double-A and Triple-A. He wound up with 76 extra-base hits, a .455 on-base percentage, drew 93 walks and stole 22 bases.

All of that and Belt, the soft-spoken Texan with the big left-handed bat, is still feeling like the new guy in big league camp this spring. Probably not for long.

“I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing,” the 22-year-old Belt said, standing at his locker before a recent workout. “I’m just following the people who have been here before. I’m still trying to not look very stupid.”

He took over at first base in the sixth inning of the Giants‘ 7-6 victory against Arizona in their Cactus League opener Friday and grounded out to the pitcher in his only at-bat.

“It felt good. It’s nice to get that first one out of the way,” Belt said. “I’ll probably be more relaxed in the next one.”

Belt is doing a lot of observing of the veterans for now, keeping his mouth shut and going about his work.

He is still a mystery to most of his teammates _ and Belt has been working mostly on a back field so far, away from the regular roster players for the World Series champions. The Giants‘ brass came out to watch him and others in an intrasquad game Thursday at Scottsdale Stadium. Belt got one hit.

“I don’t know how much advice he needs,” Posey said. “He batted .350 with 20-something home runs last year. He probably has a pretty good idea of what he wants to do this year.”

The plan is for Belt to start the season at Triple-A Fresno to give him more time to develop, though the talented infielder will stay in major league camp at spring training for as long as the front-office executives need to fully evaluate him.

“It’s early. He’s trying to find his timing,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I look forward to seeing him this spring.”

The Giants project Belt as their first baseman of the future, though he also can play the outfield.

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Belt is focused more on his nutrition and training this season, determined not to lose the 15 or 20 pounds he dropped a year ago just over the course of a grueling season. He also was fatigued by the end, learning he has to take better care of himself to stay at this level.

Pitcher Madison Bumgarner has been impressed with Belt’s focus and performance so far.

“I’d heard about his hitting. I knew he could hit, but I hadn’t seen him at first base and didn’t know how good he was,” Bumgarner said. “He’s smooth and makes good plays.”

Belt definitely feels the buzz of being part of the World Series champions _ even if he wasn’t part of the special run last fall to the franchise’s first title since moving west in 1958 and first overall since the New York Giants won it all in 1954.

“It’s very exciting right now,” Belt said. “It’s fun to come in here and see all the banners. It’s a good opportunity for me to show people in the front office what I can do.”

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