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01/09/09 7:36 PM EST

Giants invite Posey, 15 others to camp

Team considers highly touted catcher to be on 'fast track'

SAN FRANCISCO -- Officially declaring what had been assumed all along, the Giants announced Friday that catcher Buster Posey, perhaps their most highly regarded prospect, will be among 16 non-roster invitees to big league Spring Training camp.

Posey's presence at Scottsdale, Ariz., will reflect not only the Giants' high estimation of him, but also the widespread belief that the 21-year-old from Florida State University is close to Major League ready.

"This is a nice progression for a player who we consider to be on the fast track," said Bobby Evans, the Giants' director of player personnel.

Although Posey is virtually certain to begin the regular season in the Minors, Evans pointed out that he can benefit from a few weeks of exposure to roving catching instructor Brian Harper, Major League bullpen catcher Bill Hayes and manager Bruce Bochy, a former catcher, before going to Minor League camp.

Posey, winner of last year's Golden Spikes Award as the nation's top college player, hit .351 in 10 games between the rookie-level Giants and short-season Salem-Keizer last season after the Giants signed him to a $6.2 million bonus. He then batted .338 in 19 regular-season games for Waikiki in the Hawaii Winter Baseball league.

Another intriguing invitee is third baseman Jesus Guzman, who spent last year in Oakland's Minor League system and hit .349 with 17 home runs and 88 RBIs in 100 games for the A's rookie-level, Double-A and Triple-A clubs. Guzman continued hitting for Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League, breaking a 35-year-old record by amassing 67 RBIs while hitting .349 with 13 homers in 61 games.

Right-hander Kevin Pucetas, who has an outside chance to secure the No. 5 starter's spot, will participate in his first Major League camp. Pucetas, 24, finished 10-2 with a 3.02 ERA in 24 starts for Class A San Jose last year, improving his three-year professional record to 32-7 with a 2.35 ERA.

Two of the most familiar faces among the invitees are infielders Scott McClain and Ivan Ochoa, who spent time with the Giants last season. McClain batted .273 in 14 games and provided one of the year's most stirring moments at Colorado on Sept. 3 when he hit his first Major League home run after 19 professional seasons. The slick-fielding Ochoa hit .200 in 47 games, including 31 starts (26 at shortstop, five at second base).

Hot Stove

Other invitees with Major League experience are right-handers Francis Beltran, Brandon Medders and Justin Miller, catcher Eli Whiteside, first baseman-outfielder Josh Phelps and outfielder Andres Torres.

Veteran Minor League catcher Todd Jennings will make his fourth appearance in camp. Infielder Jake Wald will participate in his third camp and catcher Jackson Williams will report to his second in a row.

Right-hander Ronnie Ray and infielder Matt Downs will appear in their first big league camp.

Giants pitchers and catchers are due to report to Scottsdale on Feb. 14, with the first workout set for the following day. Position players must report on Feb. 17, preceding the initial full-squad workout Feb. 18.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.