Posey a bright spot in Giants' opening loss
PHOENIX --- There is poetry sometimes in baseball and another potentially lyrical moment happened again in the top of the ninth inning Friday at Chase Field in the season opener for both the Giants and D-backs.
Giants catcher Buster Posey -- playing in his first regular-season game since tearing left ankle ligaments and breaking the same leg in a nasty collision at home plate May 25 -- came up to bat with two out and the tying run on second base. It would have been a fitting end to a great story had Posey launched a base hit. He didn't. Instead, he topped a cutter thrown by Arizona closer J.J. Putz and bounced to short, concluding the 5-4 Giants loss.
"It was a decent pitch to hit; it was just down a little bit," Posey said afterward. "That's the way it goes."
And this is the way it went: Posey looked as good as new -- if not flawless -- in playing a full nine innings for only the second time since the injury. The other came near the end of Spring Training as it became apparent that his rehab was complete. He'll be out there again in Saturday's rematch, giving him another first: back-to-back nine-inning games.
There are no limitations right now on how to use Posey, Bruce Bochy said, and the Giants' manager is taking full advantage of that.
"We'll check on him every day. He's playing tomorrow," Bochy said after Friday's game. "If it feels fine, he'll play the next day. Occasionally, we'll give him his days off. I don't have any plan like he's going to play these two or these three."
But if one is looking for a real positive in a season-opening loss, it's the miracle that Posey is fully functional so soon. D-backs shortstop Stephen Drew broke his right ankle July 20 and he's still light years away from playing. The injuries were so eerily similar that trainers from both clubs exchanged information as the two players recovered.
Drew sustained his injury sliding into the plate in an attempt to score. Posey's happened as he tried to block the plate against hard-charging Marlins baserunner Scott Cousins, his leg crumbling as it was pinned beneath him. Posey underwent surgery to have the ligaments reattached to the ankle with screws, the hardware having long since been removed.
At the time of his injury, Giants head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner was far more concerned about Posey's recovery from the ligament tears than he was about the fracture. Broken bones always heal stronger. Ligaments, tendons and muscles have a tendency to weaken and are under threat to tear again.
But all that is ancient history now, Bochy said.
"Buster is fine. He's not showing any ill effects of what happened. He's catching fine. He's feeling great back there. He's running well, swinging the bat. It's good to see him out there. He was excited about today and being back there on Opening Day. The injury part is behind us, I think, so let's just move on now."
There may be no clearer indication of the ballclub's confidence in Posey than the fact that the two catchers who replaced him for the remainder of last season are both gone. Chris Stewart was recently traded to the Yankees and Eli Whiteside was demoted to Triple-A Fresno, leaving rookie Hector Sanchez as Posey's backup. Sanchez has 13 games of experience with the Giants, all of them last season.
That means the 25-year-old Posey is expected to participate in a lot of games. Keep in mind that Posey has yet to play a full season in the Major Leagues. He partook in 108 regular-season games and 15 more in the playoffs two years ago after the Giants brought him up on May 29. Posey was an integral part of the team's run to a World Series title and was voted the National League's Rookie of the Year. Last year, he had appeared in 45 games prior to the injury, and without him the Giants finished eight games behind the division-winning D-backs in the NL West.
And so it was certainly a psychological boost for Posey to get back out there Friday. And he appeared no worse for the wear. Posey quickly jumped out of the box in the fifth inning on Jason Kubel's little hopper in front of the plate, showing his old agility. Unfortunately, the ball kicked off his glove for an error, opening the door for two D-backs runs.
"That one was a weird one," Posey said about the play.
Offensively, he had two singles and a walk in five plate appearances, extending a personal hitting streak to 14 games, the last safety coming the day of the injury.
Posey stretches before games and makes sure he ices his leg afterward. He can't put a number on how close he is to 100 percent, saying only that "I'm really happy where I'm at."
"It's been continuing to improve and the more I'm out there, the less I do think about it," he said. "It was nice to be back out there again tonight. It was great to get that game out of the way. Obviously, it would've been better with a win."
And certainly much more poetic with a ninth-inning, game-tying hit.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.