NEW YORK -- The last baseball-related act that occurred at Yankee Stadium before Sunday's pregame festivities honoring Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was a relatively rare sight: the Giants took infield practice.
The drills were formerly part of every team's daily routine, but became infrequent during the late 1990s. Since then, teams occasionally have revived the custom when they believe they need the extra work. The Giants did this late in 2008 -- which happened to be their last sub-.500 season until this one -- when they had an influx of rookies and near-rookies such as Pablo Sandoval, John Bowker, Travis Ishikawa and Fred Lewis.
Now, with the Giants struggling to avoid last place in the National League West and the club having played erratic defense all year, manager Bruce Bochy seized the opportunity to sharpen his players' skills -- even at this late juncture of the season.
"You never stop trying to get better," Bochy said. "Even though we aren't happy where we are, you have to keep doing your job, and your job is to get better."
Bochy: Sanchez, Belt show greatest improvement
NEW YORK -- Catcher Hector Sanchez and first baseman Brandon Belt were the Giants who manager Bruce Bochy mentioned as the club's most improved players in response to a question asked Sunday.
Sanchez entered Sunday batting .267, compared with .280 last year. But Bochy noted that the 23-year-old has progressed considerably since Spring Training, when shoulder ailments limited his performance.
"He's worked to get back on track," Bochy said.
Sanchez has particularly distinguished himself since being recalled from Triple-A Fresno in early August. He began Sunday hitting .311 (23-for-74) with three homers and 15 RBIs in his previous 29 games.
Belt's hitting adjustments have been well documented. Entering Sunday, he had hit .361 (60-for-166) since Aug. 1, the third-highest mark in the Majors during that span behind Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen (.373) and Detroit's Victor Martinez (.368). Belt also had six homers and 23 RBIs in the stretch.
Belt sparked his surge by standing deeper in the batter's box and changing his batting grip. He has recorded career highs or is on pace to finish with personal bests in virtually every offensive category.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.