Giants' Posey cool beyond his years
Nothing fazes phenom-in-waiting, not even Molina's return
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Like many people, Buster Posey considers a round of golf one of his favorite ways to unwind.Also like a lot of folks, Posey accepts the humility that golf thrusts upon everybody who swings a club. "I think that's one of those sports a lot of people really enjoy that they're not very good at -- and I might be one of them," said Posey, who estimated that he has a 10 handicap. "If I could putt, I'd be all right." So when Posey realized that he would not open this season as the Giants' starting catcher -- once they re-signed Bengie Molina to a one-year contract -- he drew upon the same perspective that calms him when a well-struck drive lands in the rough or a bunker. "I was surprised like everybody else was," said Posey, who participated in the Giants' first workout for pitchers and catchers on Thursday. "But that's one of those things that's out of my control. What can you do?" Posey understands that his ascent to Major League stardom, which many observers regard as inevitable, won't be non-stop. Though manager Bruce Bochy's curiosity about trying Posey as a fill-in at first base reflects the Giants' desire to see him in the Majors sooner than later, the top prospect faces a serious challenge from Eli Whiteside for a spot on the Opening Day roster as Molina's backup. Yet the possibility of beginning the season with Triple-A Fresno, where he played 35 games last year before the Giants summoned him in September, doesn't bother Posey. "I don't have a choice," he said with a short laugh. "I'll be fine." This attitude is no facade. John Barr, the Giants' scouting director, noticed it when he watched Posey excel for Lee County (Ga.) High School. "He really handled himself in a mature manner," Barr said. "He always played the game hard and the way it should be played. You respect that in a kid." Posey made the same impression at Florida State University. The school's baseball coach, Mike Martin, still has a locker reserved for Posey in the Seminoles' clubhouse. "I don't know that I've had a more mature young man as an 18-year-old than Buster," said Martin, FSU's coach for 31 years. "I never heard him gripe about anything we did the entire three years he was here." That included Posey's conversion from shortstop to catcher at the beginning of his sophomore season. Feeling uneasy about attempting such a dramatic change would only be natural. But, Martin recalled, "The first day he walked toward us with the catching gear on, it seemed like he had worn those shinguards for years." Posey credited his ability to remain grounded to his parents, Traci and Demp, as well as Martin and other coaches. And like any good husband, Posey knows that his wife, Kristen, will keep him in line. "If I make a dumb comment, she'll bring me back down real quick, in her own way," said Posey, who turns 23 next month. Posey might have been justified in making a bold remark during the offseason. The Giants' front office vacillated between admitting doubts about Posey's readiness for everyday duty and expressing confidence that he could handle the role. So he could have wallowed in confusion or even bitterness after Molina re-signed on Jan. 19. Instead, all Posey really wanted to do was talk with Molina. Posey figured he'd wait a couple of days, reasoning that Molina was swamped with well-wishers. But first, Molina sent Posey a text message. Posey called back. "We had a good conversation," Posey said. "I feel like Bengie and I have had a good relationship. There's never going to be any friction between us." Besides, Posey knows that expressing frustration would be as useful as flinging an iron after a poor approach shot. His self-scouting report about his skill at hitting the little white ball with dimples might mirror his skill at hitting the little white ball with red laces. "I hit it right or left. I don't know which way it's going," Posey said. "I'll find the green eventually."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.