Giants will count on Belt's big bat moving forward

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Forget the fluffy, full-head panda masks for Pablo Sandoval, or Brian Wilson's lookalike bushy beards. So last year. Lately, it's all about the baby giraffe around the San Francisco Giants.

That would be Brandon Belt, who hardly minds the comparisons to the colossal creature -- even if it's a reference to his long neck.

Belt's long swing has provided a boost for the struggling defending World Series champions. While they are all but out of the playoff chase this year in the NL West, Belt and other youngsters like Brett Pill are expected to be a big part of the club's plans looking ahead to 2012.

The late-season exposure has been a positive for Belt, who cried when manager Bruce Bochy told him he'd made the opening day roster.