The Giants won another spring training game, beating the Mariners to improve to 7-3. But the real story was the progress of Buster Posey and the return of Brian Wilson.
Posey made his second spring start, catching four innings and going 0 for 2.
“I felt good today and I was happy again with how my ankle felt,” Posey said.
Posey grounded out to short in the second and grounded out to third in third, both against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez.
“I got ahead 2-0 in both at-bats,” he said. “I saw some good pitches in the first at-bat. Got a pretty good pitch 2-0, just rolled over it. I feel good at the plate … I feel like I’m seeing the ball well.”
Posey said the plan was to catch four more innings Tuesday against the Cubs, but manager Bruce Bochy would see how the catch feels Monday before finalizing Posey’s next appearance.
Wilson made his first spring appearance as the Giants take a cautious approach after The Beard’s elbow problems last season.
He was slated to throw between 20-25 pitches, but needed only nine to get through a scoreless fourth inning.
Wilson threw only fastballs and cutters, with his fastball clocked at 93-94 MPH.
“The ball was coming out really well,” Posey said. “The cutter was good. He looked great.”
Posey and Wilson finished their day with a flourish, with Wilson striking out Vinnie Catricala and Posey hosing Carlos Peguero trying to steal second in a strike-em-out-throw-em-out double play.
“It’s nice to see Buster behind the dish throwing people out,” Wilson said. “Although the ideal situation is not to have a guy on. But I’ll take it.”
Wilson is scheduled to pitch again Wednesday against the Indians.
- Another day and Melky Cabrera continues to rake. He went 2 for 3 with two RBI. He’s hitting .542.
- Another young catcher shined on Sunday. Hector Sanchez belted home runs from each side of the plate, finishing 2 for 2 with 3 RBI. He’s hitting .500.
- OF Gregor Blanco continues to give the Giants something to think about, going 2 for 3 with a stolen base. He’s hitting .474 in his push to make the club as a reserve outfielder.
- Emmanuel Burris went 2 for 3 with two runs and a stolen base. He started at 2B, but moved to 3B late in the game, where he committed a throwing error.
- C Chris Stewart, known for his defense, had rough day behind the plate, allowing a run to score on a passed ball and committing a throwing error.
- P Eric Surkamp, the first candidate to step into the rotation in case of injury, bounced back from a rough first start. He gave up a run on three hits and three strikeouts in three innings.
Tim Lincecum is slated to take the mound as the Giants take on the Royals in Surprise at 1:05 p.m.
Don’t worry, Matt Cain. We still love you.
When Cain left the bullpen Friday and walked onto the field at Scottsdale Stadium, he was greeted by huge roar from the Giants fans.
“I thought everybody really loved me,” Cain quipped. “And then I looked behind me and saw Buster.”
Buster Posey returned to live action for the first time since May 25 of last year, catching Cain two innings and flying out to right in his lone at-bat in the Giants’ win over the Reds.
“It was fun,” Posey said. “I’ve put in a lot of work. Even though it was only two innings, it was nice to be out there.”
Posey will get Saturday off, then return Sunday to catch four inning, according to manager Bruce Bochy.
“It was good to see Buster back out there playing again,” Bochy said. “I know he was excited. It was great to see the ovation he got when he walked out to the bullpen. … Everyone was happy to see Buster playing again.”
Well, that’s for sure. And it was also good to see Freddy Sanchez, too.
Sanchez went 1 for 4 as the Giants designated hitter Friday in his first game since a shoulder injury ended his season last June. But the big test will come Monday, when he plays his first game at second base.
“Playing defense will be a big stepping stone for me,” said Sanchez, who will DH again on Saturday and Sunday. “I feel like I’m getting a little stronger each day.”
- Matt Cain pitched three scoreless innings, giving up three hits, no walks and striking out four. He has not allowed a run in five innings this spring.
- OF Melky Cabrera continues to rake. He went 2 for 3 with a two-run homer in the third inning. He’s hitting .588.
- Aubrey Huff made his first spring start in left field. He went 0 for 3 and is hitting .214 this spring.
- Meanwhile, Brandon Belt came off the bench and replaced Nate Schierholtz in right field. He went 2 for 2 with a double and an eighth-inning home run. He’s hitting .389.
The Giants play split-squad games on Saturday. Barry Zito will start at Scottsdale against the Brewers, where he won’t have Prince Fielder to throw at anymore. Right-hander Shane Loux gets the start in Tempe against the Angels.
Giants fans got the confirmation Thursday morning that they’ve been waiting for since last May.
Buster Posey will play in a Giants uniform on Friday against the Reds.
“The plan is to catch a couple innings tomorrow,” Posey told the San Jose Mercury News on Thursday morning. “I’m excited.”
He’s not the only one.
Posey ran the basepaths and noticed significant improvement.
When asked by a reporter to give a percentage of how hard he was running, Posey replied with a question of his own.
“How hard do you think I was running?” he asked with a smile.
When Chronicle reporter Henry Schulman said about 80 percent, Posey replied: “I guess Henry doesn’t think I have much left in the tank.”
All joking aside, Posey said he was running at about 60-70 percent effort after running on the outfield cut of the grass on Monday. He’s expected to run bases again Thursday.
“I’m happy I’ve been able to do baseball activities,” Posey said. “We knew from the time I was injured (last May) that bases would be the last thing to come. We’ve been lucky everything has gone smoothly as it has.”
Freddy Sanchez also is expected to make his spring debut Friday, as the designated hitter.
Sanchez, who had shoulder surgery last August, practiced throwing across his body from second base for the first time Wednesday. But the Giants will continue to take a conservative approach with him.
Both Posey and Sanchez hit live batting practice against Brian Wilson on Wednesday.
Wilson, who is coming off elbow troubles last year, declared himself ready to go.
“I’m totally ready ready, and now I have three days to prepare myself.”
Wilson will make his spring debut Sunday or Monday.
Good news for Giants reliever Runzler
The last thing Dan Runzler wanted to do this spring was take a flight to Florida to see Dr. James Andrews.
But the report from the doctor was good, and the left-hander could be back pitching in games by mid-to-late April.
Runzler took his lat muscle in the regular-season finale. He had been healthy this spring until he felt something grab in his shoulder during a bullpen session late last week.
But Andrews said that Runzler only aggravated the injury and would not require surgery.
“It definitely put my head at ease,” Runzler told CSNBayArea.com. “He compared the MRIs before and after and said it was just a small aggravation. It’s not like I re-did it. He was very optimistic.”
Runzler said he should be game ready in four to six weeks.
That will take him out of the running for the final bullpen spot, expected to go to Clay Hensley.
Runzler expects to open the season in extended spring training. Then, he’ll likely head to Fresno
The Giants received some encouraging news on some of their ailing or rehabbing stars. We may see all (or at least most) of the Giants in a spring training game by the end of the week.
BUSTER POSEY: Posey really wanted to be ready to for last Saturday’s spring opener. He was close, but the Giants took the conservative road and held him out. Manager Bruce Bochy said Monday that Posey worked on his running and sliding on Monday. He is scheduled to start running full speed on the bases Tuesday to make sure his surgically-repaired ankle can hold up to making turns on the bases. If everything goes well, Posey could make his spring debut as a DH on Friday against the Reds. Bochy said he could even catch an inning or two.
FREDDY SANCHEZ: The second baseman coming off shoulder surgery may have already been in games as a DH if he did suffer back spasms early last week. That spring debut could come Thursday or Friday for Sanchez. Bochy said he’s not ready to get Sanchez in the game as a second baseman, but he’s more willing to get his bat into game situations.
BRIAN WILSON: The Beard pronounced himself ready to go after throwing batting practice on Sunday. Bochy said Wilson will make his spring debut on Sunday, after throwing another BP session on Wednesday. Wilson is recovering from elbow inflammation that cost him most of the final two months of 2011.
DAN RUNZLER: Runzler was sent to see Dr. James Andrews for a consultation on his strained shoulder on Sunday. We haven’t heard anything since. And in this case, no news is bad news. A lat strain could sideline Runzler six weeks. He needed a strong spring to make the roster. That won’t happen now.
The Giants second baseman even made throws to first base, the first time he’s thrown to a base since his shoulder surgery last August.
Manager Bruce Bochy said it’s time to “pick up the pace” on Sanchez’s return from his shoulder injury to get him ready for the season opener. The plan right now is to get Sanchez into games by the second full week in March, either at second base or as a designated hitter.
While both Bochy and Sanchez said there’s plenty of time for the second baseman to get ready, Sanchez admitted to being antsy about returning to the field after his minor setback on Monday.
For more on Sanchez’s day, check out CSNBayArea.com.
THIS AND THAT
- BUSTER POSEY: Bochy said that Buster Posey won’t start Saturday’s spring training opener against Arizona, adding that he would not catch. But then he backpedaled, saying that he might get an inning behind the plate. Posey could also DH, often employed during spring training even by NL clubs.
- CLAY HENSLEY: CSNBayArea.com’s Andrew Baggarly had a nice piece on pitcher Clay Hensley and his perspective on the play that ended Buster Posey’s season last May. Hensley was a member of the Florida Marlins. To see the report click here.
So, Buster Posey is done for the year. Only the most optimistic of Giants fan was expecting something different in the wake of the catcher’s traumatic injuries suffered last week.
The official word came on Sunday after Posey underwent surgery on his broken ankle and torn ankle ligaments. Posey had some screws placed into his lower leg to stabilize the ankle, and Giants trainer Dave Groeschner said the Posey will have another procedure in 8 to 10 weeks to remove some of that hardware.
Rehab would begin after the second procedure, effectively ending his 2011 season.
So now we must consider what’s next in Posey’s playing future. Groeschner said he expects Posey to make a full recovery by next spring training, but really won’t know for certain until he sees how the healing process goes by late summer or early fall.
There has been a good amount of chatter surrounding Posey and whether or not he should continue to play catcher. Even former teammate Bengie Molina said the Giants should seriously consider moving Posey to another position where Posey would less in harm’s way.
Posey, on the other hand, says he remains “100 percent committed” to returning to catching for the 2012 season.
The decision to move Posey to another position may be one the Giants will eventually make. But the likelihood of that happening in 2012 is not good.
This is the projected 2012 lineup, based on players who are under the Giants’ control in 2012.
1B — Aubrey Huff
2B — Freddy Sanchez
SS — Brandon Crawford
3B — Pablo Sandoval
C — Posey
LF — Brandon Belt
CF — Andres Torres
RF — Aaron Rowand/Nate Schierholtz
BENCH — Eli Whiteside, Mike Fontenot, Emmanuel Burriss, Darren Ford
OK, so if you move Posey out of the catcher position, where do you move him?
Third base? That’s where Sandoval plays. If Posey is at third base, where does The Panda play?
First base? That would force Huff (who will be paid $11 million in 2012) back to the outfield. We’ve seen that before, and it wasn’t pretty. Under this alignment, we would expect Huff to play left and Belt in right. That’s a little be easier to stomach than Huff in right, where he was a disaster back in April, but it’s certainly not a Gold Glove outfield. We’ve seen with the offensive struggles that Giants have endured this season how important a solid defense is.
Left field? Is this any better than moving Huff to outfield? Do the Giants want to open 2012 with a converted catcher in left and a converted first baseman (Belt) in right?
The bigger issue is that moving Posey out of the catcher position effectively closes the door on the Giants being players in two of the biggest potential free agents of next offseason — Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.
But even if Giants don’t succeed in landing one of those big bats, there are still better options on the free agent market among outfielders than you would find among free-agent catchers.
Playing Posey anywhere other than catcher really only leaves one position where the Giants can look to improve their offense — shortstop. But would the Giants really make a move to sign someone like Jimmy Rollins or Jose Reyes if they feel that Brandon Crawford is their shortstop of the future?
So, even if they really wanted to move Posey to another spot on the diamond, the Giants likely wouldn’t do it in 2012.
The preliminary news is in on Buster Posey, and as we thought, it wasn’t good.
Posey has a broken bone in his lower leg. He underwent an MRI this morning to see if there is additional ligament damage. Until then, we won’t have a clear idea of how long Posey will be out. But Giants fans need to prepare themselves for news of a season-ending injury.
And while we await further news on Posey, the focus on Thursday morning focused on two points: Was the hit of the Marlins’ Scott Cousins on Posey a dirty play? Should there be some rule change to prevent future collisions and injuries at home plate.
We’ll tackle the first question first: Was it a dirty play?
The short answer is no. When Cousins decided to go and force a play at the plate, he knew that if Schierholtz’s throw was an accurate that he was going to be out unless he could dislodge the ball from Posey. Once he saw the ball come straight to Posey, Cousins made his line straight at Posey because he felt that was his best chance of scoring.
It’s a baseball play. It’s been an accepted play for a long while. All of the Giants players said as much. If any upset Giants fan thinks differently, just think back to another home plate collision involving the Marlins and Giants — the final play of the 2003 NL Divisional Series. Was J.T. Snow a dirty player when he crashed into Ivan Rodriguez? No, even though Snow was clearly going to be out, and his only hope was to plow Pudge.
That’s what Cousins was thinking, too. And here’s something interesting. When I was researching for this post, I found two photos of Scott Cousins sliding into home with the catcher in possession of the ball. He was out on both plays.
Cousins is hitting .158 this season for the Marlins, and he’s fighting to stay on the big league roster. In the situation, Cousins has to score, by any means available to him. So there’s no way he’s sliding home and getting tagged out.
Here’s what he had to say about the play:
“It’s a baseball play. It’s part of the risk of being a catcher. We’re trying to win the game also. I’m not going to concede the out by any means. I’m on this team to do the little things to help this team win and if that means going hard and forcing the issue because I have speed, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not going to concede an out.”
Cousins, who played college baseball at the University of San Francisco, said he left badly for Posey and left two messages for the Giants catcher. He also added that he didn’t sleep last night. Well, join the club.
We don’t fault Cousins for the play. We don’t think he’s a dirty player. He wasn’t trying to hurt Posey. He was trying to score.
So that leads us to the second question: Should there be a rule change on plays at the plate?
I spent the morning looking over baseball rules. There’s a rule that states a catcher cannot block the plate if he is not in possesion of the ball. And there’s another rule that says a runner cannot intentionally come in contact with a thrown ball or cannot prevent a fielder from catching a thrown ball.
But apart from that, this play at the plate is sort of in a gray area.
As Mike Krukow said on Thursday’s pre-game show: “It’s anything goes (on a play at the plate) … and the catcher is at the mercy of the baseball gods.”
Peter Gammons tweeted Thursday about how Carlton Fisk changed his approach at plays at the plate after a collision in 1974, employing a sweep tag for the rest of his career.
The implication there is that Posey should not have been blocking the plate.
But he wasn’t.
Posey was out in front of the plate, but was caught by a short hop on Schierholtz’s throw, which caused him to back into the plate slightly. Still, there was a clear path between Cousins and the plate, and the collision occurred in front of the plate between the plate and the mound — not between the plate and third base.
That was the concern of manager Bruce Bochy, a former catcher. Should a runner be allowed to blow up a catcher who is not blocking the plate?
It’s a valid question, and it’s something Major League Baseball needs to look at.
It’s not about changing Major League Baseball into Little League Baseball. It’s about keeping baseball players on the field, and not on the trainer’s table.