LOS ANGELES -- With eight home runs, Giants first baseman Brandon Belt already has eclipsed his 2012 total of seven. But other numbers illustrate manager Bruce Bochy's opinion that Belt still has ample room for improvement.
In some respects, Belt has accomplished plenty. Besides appearing destined to surpass his personal high of nine homers in 2011, Belt has overcome his early-season doldrums by lifting his batting average to .264 entering Wednesday. He didn't clear the .200 mark for good until April 23 and was hitting .214 as late as May 6.
"From where he started and where he is, it's very encouraging," Bochy said.
But Bochy pointed out that Belt's tendency to perform better against left-handed pitchers, which is unusual for a left-handed batter, mutes his performance. The reason is simple: More right-handed pitchers exist. Belt is hitting .327 (17-for-52) off lefties, compared with .247 (47-for-190) against righties.
Kickham to remain in rotation, face Reds next
LOS ANGELES -- Left-hander Mike Kickham showed enough improvement Tuesday night to earn his third Major League start, which will be Monday's series opener at Cincinnati.
Kickham allowed six runs (five earned) and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers. That left him with an 0-2 record and a 10.57 ERA. But Kickham's encore appearance outclassed his Major League debut May 28 at Oakland, where he yielded four runs and four hits while walking four in 2 1/3 innings.
Pitching at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park, which significantly favors hitters, likely will present a challenge for Kickham. Assuming the 24-year-old remains in the rotation, he'll probably savor his following start, his first home outing, at pitcher-friendly AT&T Park on July 6.
Vogelsong gets splint off broken pinkie finger
LOS ANGELES -- Ryan Vogelsong can begin strengthening his injured pitching hand, now that the splint has been removed from it.
Vogelsong, who sustained a fractured right pinkie on May 20, already has begun squeezing a rubber ball since he stopped wearing the splint Tuesday. His afflicted finger looked bent and discolored Wednesday, but Vogelsong said that he felt noticeable improvement in a mere 24-hour period.
"I'm trying to get some flexibility back in there," said Vogelsong, who's unlikely to resume pitching competitively for the Giants before August. "It's still pretty stiff right now."
In other injury-related news, manager Bruce Bochy cited the 15-day disabled list as a possibility for infielder Joaquin Arias, who'll test his strained left hamstring Friday at Colorado. Thursday is a scheduled off-day for the Giants.
"If we think he won't be ready, we may have to make a move with him," Bochy said.
Bochy said that Friday also will be the day when reliever Santiago Casilla, who's recovering from right knee surgery, will throw to hitters. That's expected to be one of the last hurdles that Casilla, the Giants' top right-handed setup man, must clear before he can be reinstated from the disabled list.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.