SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Buster Posey squatted into a catcher’s crouch for his first spring training bullpen session and began receiving pitches from Tim Lincecum, then Matt Cain.
He practiced springing up to throw after catching the ball, with no hesitation or signs that he had ever been seriously hurt.
Posey showed he has plenty of pop in his bat, too. He cleared the fences a couple of times in his first round of batting practice at Scottsdale Stadium on Sunday, Day 1 for Giants pitchers and catchers.
Clearly, San Francisco’s cleanup hitter is loose, good-natured and in a positive frame of mind.
“It was special for me because I’ve put in a lot of work to get back to this point and this is just another step,” Posey said. “There’s still some work to do but I was very happy with today.”
The 2010 N.L. Rookie of the Year made his highly anticipated return to the field in a formal setting after a season-ending leg injury last year. He tore three ligaments in his left ankle and broke a bone in his lower leg in a frightening home-plate collision with Florida’s Scott Cousins on May 25.
Posey is one of a handful of key major leaguers working back from injuries this spring – including Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright, Colorado’s Jorge de la Rosa and reliever Joba Chamberlain of the New York Yankees.
Through his entire ordeal, Posey has been able to reflect on his baseball career.
Yes, he wants to keep catching for years to come, though changing positions did cross his mind a few times. He refuses to get involved in speaking out about the need for any rules changes when it comes to making contact with the catcher (manager Bruce Bochy is handling that campaign). Posey wants to do everything he can to stay in the lineup as a regular.
“I think it’s just a greater appreciation for doing what I do, just enjoying this, being out here today catching a couple of pens and maybe some of the not-so-glamorous stuff of a catcher’s job,” he said. “Enjoying that stuff a little bit more and just knowing that it can be gone quick.”
General manager Brian Sabean, Bochy and the brass kept a watchful eye on Posey in the bullpen. It was a monumental moment for Posey, whose long road to recovery included having screws removed from his surgically repaired left ankle in July and pushing himself around on a makeshift scooter to keep weight off the injured leg.
The Giants have a plan in place to keep Posey from overdoing it now – and he understands that. He will do all he can to avoid another injury that could derail his plan and force him to become a full-time first baseman.
This is the player San Francisco gave $6.2 million when he signed in August 2008 as the fifth overall pick out of Florida State, the richest deal ever for a Giants amateur.
It would mean a lot to Posey to play in the first Cactus League game March 3 against defending N.L. West champion Arizona, and Bochy believes that’s possible. For a while, Bochy will check in with the medical staff after each of Posey’s games in which he catches five or six innings.
Posey won’t catch bullpens today but is expected to participate in other baseball activities.
“That’s our decision, not his,” Bochy said.
Posey has distanced himself from the collision – though he has watched it multiple times – and the emotional aftermath. Cousins has expressed how sorry he is the injury happened but called it an aggressive baseball play.
Posey said Sunday he accepts that Cousins does care, even if they haven’t spoken despite efforts by the Marlins outfielder.
“The biggest thing for me back then and now is looking forward and being positive and trying to get ready for another season,” Posey said.