Teams taking notice of Strickland's surge

Teams taking notice of Strickland's surge

SAN DIEGO -- Giants right-hander Hunter Strickland has attracted the attention of the Rays, who are seeking relief help as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches.

A Rays scout was at Petco Park to witness effective appearances by Strickland in the first two games of this series. On Friday, Strickland faced three batters, allowing a hit while striking out two. On Saturday, he worked a scoreless eighth inning against the Padres.

These outings lengthened Strickland's recent surge in performance. Entering Sunday, he had allowed two runs in his last 13 1/3 innings, which spanned 15 games. This trimmed Strickland's overall ERA to 1.91, tying him for 10th-best among National League relievers. He also has amassed 36 strikeouts in 33 innings.

The Giants must decide whether they're better off keeping Strickland, 28, than parting with him. Strickland's velocity routinely hovers around or above 95 mph.

The Giants are hoping to obtain Major League-ready players in any deal they might make, since they're reluctant to undergo a full-fledged rebuilding process that would require stockpiling lower-level talent.

Belt scratched: The Giants scratched first baseman Brandon Belt from Sunday's lineup, due to a sprained left wrist he sustained one night earlier on a checked swing.

Buster Posey replaced Belt at first base, Hunter Pence occupied Belt's No. 3 spot in the batting order and Nick Hundley entered the lineup to catch.

Belt, who has played in a team-high 89 games, began Sunday with a .382 batting average in his last nine games, with nine runs scored and six doubles.

Pleasantries before business: As Posey prepared to step in the batter's box for his first-inning plate appearance Saturday, he received an earful from Padres catcher Hector Sanchez -- all friendly words, of course.

Sanchez, who served as Posey's backup as he broke into the Majors with the Giants, wanted to catch up quickly on personal matters.

"I asked him about his daughter and his son and he asked me about mine," Sanchez said. "It's like I've said before about those guys [the Giants] -- we have a good relationship, especially with Buster. It seemed like we were more than teammates. He was like my brother."

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.