SCOTTSDALE — As Gabe Kapler tried to sum up everything he had seen from his franchise catcher on Sunday, he arrived at the most encouraging conclusion the Giants could ask for.
“He looked like Buster Posey,” the manager said.
Posey is back and is bringing so much the Giants had lacked.
Just three innings of his first game action of the spring provided a glimpse of the all-around game the Giants have so desperately missed, from his bat to his arm to his mind.
After a year away during the pandemic to care for his family, which includes two adopted twin babies, the legendary catcher looked pretty fresh in collecting a walk and a hit in the Giants’ 5-2 loss to the Angels at Scottsdale Stadium in the Cactus League opener.
Did the Giants miss his bat most, which had been declining but showing signs of life again last spring under the new hitting minds? His replacements collectively posted a .591 OPS, the sixth-worst among catching groups in baseball.
Did they miss the calm way he controlled games and navigated pitchers through traffic? A big part of the reason Kevin Gausman signed with Sn Francisco two offseasons ago entailed working with Posey. Without him, there were a lot of mix-ups, and Johnny Cueto required Chadwick Tromp to be his personal catcher because of a lack of chemistry with Joey Bart.
They missed it all, and Posey gave hope that he can do it all once again.
His first plate appearance, before which he received a nice round of applause from the announced attendance of 863, resulted in a Giants-approved walk. His second saw a stroke he’s been honing for years pay off with a slapped opposite-field single.
Buster Posey is back and back collecting hits. pic.twitter.com/KzI92RCjTE
— KNBR (@KNBR) February 28, 2021
Posey said he had been “jumpy” at the start of camp, but he’s settling in.
“Really [what I want to] continue through the spring is just let the ball travel as much as I can and get back to letting it get deep in the zone and have as much time as you can to recognize a pitch,” said Posey, who had a .688 OPS in 2019. “And just trust that even against velocity, you can get to the spot that you need to get.”
The hitting coaches, who helped rejuvenate Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford, believe there is more to Posey’s bat. The glove and arm, though, are fairly unquestioned.
The biggest cheer of the day came in the third inning, when Jared Walsh took off from first, Posey caught the pitch and gunned Walsh down with plenty of time. All for naught, though: Jo Adell had walked on the pitch. In a game that didn’t matter it was a play that didn’t happen, and yet it’s among the surest signs that Buster Posey indeed is back.
For Sunday starter Conner Menez, though, Posey likely loomed largest before the game, when he helped game-plan. Menez said he loves throwing to Posey, and few say otherwise.
“It’s fun to be able to have him back there. He’s just such a great dude, and he’s one who really can help you try to lock it in,” Menez said over Zoom. “… He knows pitchers really well.”
On both sides. Posey still scouted pitchers from home last season, and looked on the same page as each Giants one he caught.
He looked like Buster Posey. Even at 33, that’s an enormous development.
“High-quality at-bats, saw the ball well. Thought he did a nice job receiving, worked the pitchers well and that nice clean knock to right field,” said Kapler, who should be able to pencil Posey into his April 1 lineup and manage him in a regular-season game for the first time.