SAN FRANCISCO — Buster Posey's returning presence gives the San Francisco Giants an important veteran vibe behind the plate and in the lineup that they were missing without the six-time All-Star last year, when Posey opted out of the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season.
Posey didn’t play after he and wife Kristin adopted premature newborn girls and chose to stay home to help care for them. Still, he regularly watched the Giants, who missed the playoffs on the season's final day with a loss at home to the rival San Diego Padres.
Posey is eager to get back out there — and even shared how he kept his arm ready this winter by firing dirty diapers at his son.
“He's been kind of like the team captain the last 10 years,” shortstop Brandon Crawford said. “To not have a guy like that in your lineup night in, night out was a little bit tougher last year. We managed to get pretty close and have a shot at the playoffs until the last game of the season. He's definitely a difference-maker and it's always nice to have him back in the clubhouse and on the field.”
Posey's arm looks strong, and his legs, too. The mechanics are impressive so far, and seeing their leader healthy and ready has been infectious for his teammates and coaches.
“There has been a different buzz around Buster,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Buster's smiling a lot. He just seems to be in a really good place."
First baseman Brandon Belt was already rehabilitating his right heel following October surgery to remove a bone spur when everything turned upside down. He got sick in January with the coronavirus and then came mononucleosis that kept him in bed for a week.
Belt is hitting again and doing baseball activities as he slowly works back from the ordeal but isn't sure he will be ready to play by opening day April 1.
“I honestly feel really good and very optimistic about my foot,” he said. "I think it’s going to be a lot better than it was last year.”
EXPERIENCE AT CATCHER
Posey's return gives the pitching staff some stability behind the plate that the Giants lacked last season without him.
There will be constant communication between Kapler and Posey — who arrived at camp in great shape — to determine his workload over the course of a long season.
“It certainly inspires a lot of confidence to know that our starting catcher on opening day is an All-Star calibre player with World Series rings and accolades galore,” Kapler said. “It's not about what he's accomplished in his career, it's more about what it means to have that type of profile and to be that talented of a player — and we feel good about knowing that guy's our starting catcher.”
KAPLER YEAR TWO
As the Giants began another spring training under Kapler, everyone knew what to expect with the routine and coaching staff.
San Francisco went 29-31 last year in Kapler’s first season.
“It was a different spring last year than what I was used to, COVID aside, the first couple weeks of spring anyway,” Crawford said. “Just maybe with some of the drills we were doing and practices a little bit more relaxed with music playing. It wasn’t like crazy different, we still have to do the same fundamentals. We’re still taking batting practice, we’re still taking groundballs. I guess you know what to expect a little bit more.”
Coach Alyssa Nakken, a former collegiate softball standout who made major league history in July when she became the first woman to coach in a regular season game on the field, is expected to increase her responsibilities this season.
She led an off-season planning meeting about baserunning as the Giants look to be more aggressive.
Right-hander Aaron Sanchez, lefties Jake McGee and Alex Wood and infielder Tommy La Stella, who received the first three-year contract for Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi.
“I think our lineup has gotten deeper, in particular against right-handed pitching,” Kapler said.
La Stella, familiar to Bay Area fans after his strong play down the stretch last fall for Oakland, provides the versatility the Giants like. He played 33 games at second base during the shortened 60-game 2020 schedule, 10 at first, six at third and another nine as designated hitter.
“We felt he was a great fit for us,” Zaidi said. “This is where his market wound up. He certainly had interest from several other teams that we were competing against.”
ROOKIE TO WATCH
Speedy outfielder Jaylin Davis may get a chance in 2021. He played in four games last season but spent most of his time at the club's alternate training site and appeared in 17 in 2019.
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Janie McCauley, The Associated Press