SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It took only five swings for Buster Posey to remind observers exactly who he is.The scene was batting practice, not a genuine ballgame, and the pitcher was bench coach Ron Wotus, not Clayton Kershaw or Roy Halladay. Still, by redirecting one of Wotus' tosses far over the left-field barrier, Posey demonstrated his impressive power, indicated that his recovery from extensive left leg injuries might indeed be legitimate and thus raised Giants hopes. The 24-year-old catcher used the word "normal" three times to describe his performance during Sunday's initial workout for pitchers and catchers. That might have been the best development of all for the Giants. The leg that was mangled in a season-ending home-plate collision last May 25 remained pain-free. Posey participated fully in every drill, though he'll skip catching pitchers' throwing sessions Monday to avoid taxing his leg too quickly. For Posey, normal meant performing agility drills and playing catch with backup Eli Whiteside while warming up with the rest of the team. It meant catching right-handers Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain during their throwing stints. It meant springing from his crouch while receiving deliveries spit out by a pitching machine. It meant batting practice, and ultimately, it meant baseball. "There's a little bit of adrenaline being out here with the rest of the guys, it being the first day," Posey said. "I was really happy with the way everything felt. ... 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. There's still some work to do, but I was very happy with today."
The rest of the Giants, particularly those who witnessed Posey's feats in 2010 when he hastened San Francisco's march to a World Series title, shared his pleasure."Buster's the core of this team, just because he's on both sides, offense and defense," left-hander Barry Zito said. "He's our leader. ... It's good for the morale of the team. We feel like we're a whole unit again." "You forget about that at such a young age, he's been able to command not only the respect of the pitching staff but the coaching staff as well," left-hander Javier Lopez said. "Everybody has complete faith in him. That's one of the things I think everyone's looking forward to -- being able to see him get down in that squat again and be behind home plate. I know I'm personally excited to see him back there. It's a 'you don't know what you've got until it's gone' type of thing." Said left-hander Jeremy Affeldt, "I think it's good just seeing him run around." Lincecum summarized matters succinctly. "It's just like having the old Posey back," said the two-time Cy Young Award winner, who twice pitched to Posey during informal bullpen sessions before camp began. Actually, the extent of Posey's recovery remains undetermined. Head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner and the Giants medical staff will continue to limit Posey's activity on certain days for safety's sake. Despite being a ferocious competitor, he appreciates the cautious approach. "Everything we've done so far has gone great," Posey said. "I trust [Groeschner] and the training staff. I'm going to stick with what they give me. We have plenty of time still. There's no point in trying to do it all in the first two days." From a symbolic standpoint, though, Posey wants to participate in the March 3 exhibition opener against Arizona. "That's something I kind of mentioned to them," Posey said. "Just because from sitting out so much, I want to get back in there. I don't want to sit in that first one. So that's something we're going to play by ear. If it is something I can do, I'll be fired up about that. But, if not, it's not the end of the world either." Posey's progress is undeniable. He said that his ankle still feels sore when he awakens but has felt "progressively better and better." But doubts linger about Posey's ability to cope with the cumulative effects of playing. Yielding to optimism, manager Bruce Bochy said, "It looks like he's over [the injuries]." Then reality quickly overtook Bochy. "More than anything, it's just how well he bounces back from catching nine innings, when you do it two, three, four, five games in a row," Bochy said. "... If there's anything that's a question, it's how much we can catch him." Yet at this juncture, resuming life as full-time, able-bodied ballplayer was enough for Posey. "I guess I'm just blessed, in a sense, that I enjoy this game," he said.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.