Results tagged ‘ Buster Posey ’

Is Posey the answer? Tough call

Tuesday, April 20

SAN DIEGO — I’m not sure whether I committed the following thought to print. I do know that I expressed it in various conversations and voiced it on radio interviews.

Asked when I thought Buster Posey would be promoted to the Majors, I predicted it would happen at the first sign of trouble.

Well, if trouble’s not here, he’s about to pick up his credential granting him access to the Giants’ clubhouse. They’ve lost three games in a row, each by one run; they’re facing a pitcher in Wednesday’s series finale against the Padres (right-hander Jon Garland) who gives them fits; and they’re about to embark upon a homestand in which they’ll face three consecutive 2009 postseason qualifiers — St. Louis, Philadelphia and Colorado.

Right now, a one-out walk constitutes a big rally for the Giants. It’s an opportune time to bring aboard Posey, the heralded prospect who’s batting .354 with a .456 on-base percentage through 12 games with Triple-A Fresno.

But where would Posey play? Catcher Bengie Molina, who’s hitting .351, is part of the short-term solution, not the problem. First baseman Aubrey Huff is batting .288 with a .393 on-base percentage. They occupy the two positions Posey is capable of playing. Unless manager Bruce Bochy is ready to bench Molina and/or Huff at least three times a week so Posey can get appreciable playing time and at-bats. Otherwise, summoning Posey would be a waste … as well as being a potentially costly luxury (assuming Posey stayed in the Majors for good, he’d become eligible for salary arbitration after the 2012 season and would cash in big a year early as a “Super Two,” just as Tim Lincecum did this past off-season).

In a way, there’s no need for the Giants to panic. Their biggest strength, starting pitching, remains intact. But, 1-for-25 through three games with runners in scoring position? It doesn’t get much worse than that.

So let’s see what the Giants do, if anything. I found it interesting to watch general manager Brian Sabean enter San Francisco’s clubhouse. after Tuesday’s loss. He didn’t trudge; he didn’t slouch. He strolled boldly through the clubhouse doors. It’s not too hard to imagine that he made a beeline for Bochy’s office to discuss the struggling offense — with or without Posey.

– Chris Haft

Posey (yawn) does it again

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Buster Posey’s feats of Cactus League skill have become almost commonplace.

Friday, Posey’s two-out, eighth-inning double off Cleveland left-hander Tony Sipp drove in Matt Downs with Friday’s tiebreaking run as the Giants proceeded to a 7-6 victory over a Cleveland Indians split squad.

Posey again displayed the almost preternatural calm that distinguishes him from most rookies. He fell behind on the count 0-2 before a passed ball sent Matt Downs, who drew a one-out walk, to second base.

Posey then whacked a low curveball into left field and hustled into second base with a slide as Downs came home.

With his .382 batting average and ability to play first base as well as catch, Posey is increasing the Giants’ temptation to keep him on the Opening Day roster.

Manager Bruce Bochy praised Posey’s two-strike approach. “He doesn’t panic,” Bochy said. “He really kept his composure.”

*****

Eugenio Velez received a chance to prove himself in center field. The results were favorable — mostly.

Velez went 3-for-3, drew a walk and scored twice. He also recorded three consecutive outs spanning the first and second innings, making nice running catches on drives hit by Jhonny Peralta and Austin Kearns.

But Velez seemed to drift under a couple of seventh-inning fly balls that were wind-aided and fell for extra-base hits. Maybe the breeze rendered the plays impossible. But the impression here was that a more polished outfielder would have come closer to making the catches.

It’s believed that Velez and Andres Torres are in competition for the same reserve outfield spot. They’re both fast, they both switch-hit and they both can play all three outfield spots. Torres appears to be the better defender. But Velez, who’s out-hitting Torres .367-.290, may have an edge on offense.

*****

Travis Ishikawa, who has overcome torn ligaments in his left foot, made his first Cactus League appearance as a pinch-hitter in the fourth inning. Ishikawa was robbed of a hit by first baseman Matt LaPorta’s diving play. Bochy said that Ishikawa will substitute at first base Saturday against Cincinnati and will start Sunday against Arizona.

*****

Brian Wilson, who has been pitching in the middle innings, received his first “save opportunity” Friday and struck out the side.

Wilson said that though it’s only the Cactus League, “you still have to treat it as a save situation. Whether it counts or not, you still have to get ready.”

– Chris Haft

Willie Mac awards Torres with advice; first cuts made

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Andres Torres owns a creditable .310 batting average. But as a switch-hitter who’s naturally bats right-handed, he’s susceptible to flaws hitting left-handed.

So Torres listened intently the other day when one of the best left-handed hitters in Giants history — heck, in all of history — summoned him for a chat. Hello, Mr. Willie Lee McCovey.

Sitting in front of the Giants dugout at Scottsdale Stadium, McCovey watched Torres take batting practice and noticed that the outfielder was wagging his bat excessively as he waited for the pitch. That might work for Barry Bonds, but not for Torres, who needs to hit line drives and grounders to capitalize on his speed.

“Wrapping” his bat — angling the barrel toward the pitcher — produced too many harmless fly balls.So McCovey advised Torres on Sunday to hold his bat straighter. “He told me to be more ‘quiet,’ because I was doing too much movement,” Torres said Tuesday.

Torres stuck with his old habits in Monday’s exhibition against Texas, but he tried McCovey’s method on Tuesday in batting practice and in the Giants’ 7-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians. Torres went 1-for-3 in the game and believes that McCovey’s advice will help.

“You have more time to go straight to the ball,” Torres said. “It makes sense.”

*****

Second baseman Freddy Sanchez, who remains limited to hitting balls off a tee, sounded doubtful about appearing in an exhibition to test his recovering left shoulder before the Giants leave Arizona on March 31.

“That hasn’t even been discussed,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez added that he has practiced tee hitting seven times so far. Taking “soft-toss” batting practice — hitting balls flipped underhanded — will be the next step in his progression.

*****

Buster Posey started his first game of the spring at first base and played error-free, though he was challenged occasionally by relatively unfamiliar plays — such as when he had to throw to Tim Lincecum covering first base in the third inning.

“He looks more and more comfortable over there,” manager Bruce Bochy said of Posey, who went 1-for-3 and is batting .429.

It’s fairly obvious, isn’t it? The more the Giants utilize with Posey like this, the more evident it is that they’re intensely curious about finding any way they can to get him on the field (and in the batter’s box) on the Major League level.

*****

The Giants announced their first round of roster cuts after Tuesday’s game. First baseman Brett Pill was optioned out while shortstop Ehire Adrianza, second baseman Nick Noonan, outfielders Wendell Fairley and Thomas Neal and catchers Johnny Monell, Hector Sanchez and Jackson Williams were reassigned to Minor League camp.

Also, right-hander Steve Johnson cleared waivers and was offered back to the Baltimore Orioles, his previous organization.

San Francisco selected Johnson, 22, for $50,000 in last December’s Rule 5 draft. Under terms of the draft, if the Giants determined that Johnson wouldn’t make their Opening Day roster, he had to be offered back to Baltimore for half of the $50,000 purchase price. Johnson recorded a 5.79 ERA in three Cactus League appearances.

The moves left the Giants with 56 players in Major League camp.

– Chris Haft

Posey stays hot; what will Giants do?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants will face some heavy thinking if Buster Posey sustains his offensive surge.

Posey collected two hits for the second day in a row Saturday in the Giants’ 8-7 split-squad exhibition loss to Oakland. The rookie catcher, renowned as San Francisco’s top position-player prospect, lifted his batting average to .368 and his slugging percentage to .632.

Because Posey has been expected to begin the season with Triple-A Fresno so he could gain experience, manager Bruce Bochy was asked if the 22-year old might be forcing the Giants’ braintrust to reconsider that plan.

“It’s good to see Buster swinging like this,” Bochy said. “It’s really a matter of time. Buster can hit. As we get deeper into spring I can answer those questions a little better. It’s early, but he’s doing what we wanted him to do.”

Bochy plainly stated that he won’t bury Posey on San Francisco’s bench. “We want to continue his development. We don’t want him sitting,” Bochy said. “It’s a matter of if we think he would get enough playing time to warrant being on the club to help us or to continue his progress so we have him ready.”

Bochy added that Posey “possibly” will start a game at first base to help the Giants gauge whether he could play there occasionally. But Bochy also reiterated that he won’t sacrifice Posey’s growth as a catcher to experiment with him at other positions. “I like the way he’s catching. I want to keep him sharp back there,” Bochy said.

*****

In quick succession:

– Tim Lincecum will receive four days’ rest, his full regular-season complement, before making his next start Tuesday against Cleveland. Madison Bumgarner will start Monday night’s split-squad game against Texas while a host of relievers will work the evening’s other split-squad game against San Diego.

– Kevin Pucetas remained in contention for the fifth starter’s spot by throwing three hitless innings in the Giants’ other split-squad contest, an 8-4 victory over Seattle. Pucetas is unscored upon in seven innings spanning three appearances and has allowed three hits. He has walked none and struck out three.

– Right-hander Joe Martinez, the fifth starter candidate who allowed four runs in one inning in his lone spring appearance, believes that the inflammation in his throwing elbow will have subsided enough to allow him to resume throwing in a couple of days.

– This isn’t shocking news, but Bochy made his strongest declaration yet regarding second baseman Freddy Sanchez’s unavailability for the April 5 regular-season opener at Houston. “He’s not going to be ready,” Bochy said of Sanchez, who’s recovering from a left shoulder injury. “He’s come along fine, but there’s not enough time.”

– First baseman Travis Ishikawa (torn ligaments in left foot) might be ready to resume playing in about a week, Bochy said.

– Right-hander Matt Cain admitted that he elevated some breaking pitches while allowing Oakland five runs and eight hits in 2 2/3 innings. However, Cain still hasn’t walked a batter in 8 2/3 innings this spring. “It obviously means you’re around the strike zone,” Cain said, pleased with this development.

– Right-handed reliever Santiago Casilla, stuck in the Dominican Republic with visa problems, finally arrived in camp and struck out the only batter he faced, Ryan Sweeney, to end the fifth inning against Oakland.

– Chris Haft

Posey sparkles again; Torres is torrid

TUCSON, Ariz. — Buster Posey demonstrated Friday why the Giants drafted him fifth overall and handed him a $6.2 million signing bonus two years ago.

Posey opened the scoring in the Giants’ 9-2 exhibition victory over the Colorado Rockies with a two-out, first-inning single off Jorge De La Rosa, last year’s winningest National League left-hander with a 16-9 record. Posey drove in the final run in San Francisco’s four-run fifth inning with a double to left-center, a line drive that touched down in the middle of the outfield but was hit so hard that Rockies center fielder Carlos Gonzalez couldn’t catch up with it.

Posey also unleashed a fourth-inning throw to second base that nullified the decent jump Troy Tulowitzki got on a steal attempt. The throw beat Tulowitzki, but umpire Chris Guccione changed his call from “out” to “safe” when shortstop Kevin Frandsen dropped the ball.

“The more action he has gotten, the more comfortable he is,” Bochy said of Posey, who’s batting .333 (5-for-15) this spring and is competing with Eli Whiteside for the backup catching job.

Bochy was particularly impressed with Posey’s throw on Tulowitzki. “Electric,” said Bochy, adding that the Giants’ staff timed Posey’s release at 1.9 seconds. The Major League average is 2.0.

*****

Andres Torres also turned in a strong all-around performance, doubling twice in three at-bats and ranging far and wide in center field to record four putouts in the first two innings. By that time, Bochy said, “He pretty much locked up the game ball.”

Four of Torres’ five hits this spring have gone for extra bases, explaining why his slugging percentage (.556) doubles his batting average (.278).

*****

In Scottsdale, left-hander Barry Zito remained on his work schedule by throwing 60 pitches in the equivalent of five innings against Minor Leaguers. Zito yielded two hits and no runs while walking none, striking out one and hitting a batter.

*****

This was likely the Giants’ final spring game at Hi Corbett Field, since the Rockies are moving to a Phoenix-area facility next year. The cozy ballpark, which was built in 1937, is so old that Hall of Famer Bob Feller actually pitched in it.

The Giants and Rockies received an unofficial flyover during the National Anthem as a pair of Air Force jets returned to a nearby base. Several other planes flew overhead during the afternoon.

“I did think about it,” Bochy said of the Giants’ finale. “As much as the game, I’m going to miss the planes, the show they put on sometimes.”

– Chris Haft

Posey plays complete game in more ways than one

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Starting his first Cactus League game of this spring at catcher, Buster Posey demonstrated why he’s the Giants’ top position-player prospect.

Posey excelled defensively, which is always a catcher’s top priority, while playing all nine innings of the Giants’ 6-2 exhibition victory over the Chicago White sox. He threw out a Sox baserunner attempting to steal second, barely missed nabbing another runner and looked nimble overall.

Posey also rapped two hits, including an opposite-field home run to right in the Giants’ five-run eighth inning, though even he admitted that the drive was windblown.

A change at catcher is not imminent. Bengie Molina will remain the primary starter, and, as everybody who has been paying attention knows, Posey might open the season at Triple-A Fresno. Still, this was a step forward for Posey, especially since he shared game experience with five pitchers (Matt Cain, Jeremy Affeldt, Brian Wilson, Dan Runzler and Sergio Romo) who almost certainly will be mainstays for the Giants.

“He’s very observant,” Cain said of Posey. “He tries to see what you want to do. He asks questions. He does a great job on that part. He learns really quickly with catching guys.”

One of Posey’s finer moments was a quintessential not-in-the-boxscore play. In the third inning, speedy Juan Pierre chopped a pitch in front of home plate. Pierre didn’t move, believing the ball was foul. But Posey sprang from his crouch, grabbed the ball and tagged Pierre about as quickly as you can say, “You’re out.”

Posey explained that plays like that are why catchers work so diligently at improving their lower-body “explosion” through weightlifting. The more leg strength a catcher possesses, the quicker he can propel himself.

“That’s the type of stuff you can’t really work on,” Posey said, referring to the Pierre play, “other than in the weight room.”

Posey’s pair of hits lifted his spring average from .143 to .273. “I’ve felt pretty good the whole time,” he said. “My timing’s there, though I’ve clipped the ball a little bit or rolled it over.”

– Chris Haft

Kieschnick excels, execution lags, legends reunite

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It wasn’t a regular-season Giants-Dodgers game, but rookie right fielder Roger Kieschnick sensed that he probably made a lot of fans happy on Monday.

With the score tied 2-2 in the 10th inning, Kieschnick cleanly fielded Angel Berroa’s single and made a strong, one-hop throw home that retired Ronnie Belliard, who was trying to score from second base. In the bottom of the inning, Kieschnick drilled a leadoff single and was replaced by pinch-runner Francisco Peguero, who scored on Ryan Rohlinger’s long single to right field to give the Giants a 3-2 victory.

Kieschnick, who excelled for San Francisco’s Class A San Jose affiliate last year, caught a whiff of hostility when the younger Giants would confront the Dodgers’ California League representatives, the Inland Empire 66ers. “They hated us just as much as anything,” Kieschnick said. “You definitely got a sense of the rivalry.”

Kieschnick, who’ll probably begin the season at Double-A Richmond, said that he was fully prepared mentally to handle Berroa’s single and Belliard’s fruitless dash home. “That play goes over and over in your mind before it happens,” he said.

*****

The Giants went hitless in their first five at-bats with runners on third base and less than two out, which didn’t please manager Bruce Bochy. “Our execution wasn’t very good today,” he said.

Example: Eugenio Velez grounded out to first base on the first pitch with runners on second and third and one out in the second inning. “He was too aggressive,” Bochy said. Noting that Velez hacked at a breaking ball from Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley, Bochy added, “We have to do a little better job of pitch selection there.”

Velez atoned in the fourth inning by dumping a two-out RBI single to center field following John Bowker’s triple off Clayton Kershaw.

*****

Many “you-had-to-be-there” moments are often not worth retelling. But since this involved two Giants legends, I’ll give it a try.

Willie McCovey, who needs no introduction, arrived on the scene Monday for his annual Spring Training visit. McCovey was beginning to leave the training complex, walking slowly on his crutches. Then he suddenly made a U-turn and headed for the Giants’ clubhouse, where Willie Mays — who also needs no introduction — was seated at his usual perch.

McCovey entered the clubhouse and headed directly for Mays. “Hey, Buck!” McCovey called, addressing Mays by the nickname he went by in his playing days. “Where’s my book?” Mays, whose recently released biography is soaring on the best-seller lists, laughed as 1,181 home runs shook hands.

*****

The Giants’ shortage of first basemen worsened as Aubrey Huff remained home with an illness. Kevin Frandsen, who played 17 games at first base last season for Triple-A Fresno, started and played six innings capably. Buster Posey appeared in his second game in a row at first base, though he later switched to catcher.

Travis Ishikawa, recovering from torn ligaments in his left foot, took batting practice on the field for the first time. But Bochy wasn’t certain when Ishikawa, who had been expected to back up Huff, will be ready to play. Meanwhile, Frandsen, Posey, Matt Downs and Brett Pill will play first whenever Huff rests or is unavailable.

Mark DeRosa, who tested his surgically repaired left wrist by swinging off Minor League pitchers Sunday, felt fine and should play his first exhibition game Tuesday or Wednesday.

– Chris Haft

Epic showdown: Lincecum vs. Sandoval

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Imagining Pablo Sandoval facing Tim Lincecum is the sort of fantasy many fans probably entertain to break up the offseason monotony.

Well, fantasy became reality Wednesday at Scottsdale Stadium, where Lincecum pitched “live” (full-speed) batting practice to the Kung Fu Panda.

What unfolded was predictable. With pitchers being ahead of the hitters (have you heard that one before?) at this stage of Spring Training, Sandoval did not make authoritative contact off Lincecum. But Sandoval did swing four times in five pitches against the two-time National League Cy Young Award winner, so not much has changed.

Sandoval swung and missed on a Lincecum fastball and took an offspeed pitch before tapping two grounders to the right side. The first of those might have bounced through for a hit, depending on how the infielders might have been positioned. Sandoval finished his confrontation against Lincecum by fouling off a pitch.

“You’re always wondering if he’s going to hit one off the ground that you’re trying to bury, or that changeup right back at you that you left up by accident,” Lincecum said. “I see why he’s a tough guy to face.”

Lincecum, who’ll start next Wednesday’s Cactus League opener against Seattle, was pleased with his batting-practice stint overall. He also faced Nate Schierholtz, Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey, whose line drive to right field was the closest semblance to a hit.

“Everything kind of felt where it should have been,” said Lincecum, who threw all of his pitches.

*****

In other camp developments, infielder-outfielder Mark DeRosa (left wrist) took live BP but only “tracked” pitches and didn’t swing. He’s still expected to be able to participate fully in workouts soon.

Manager Bruce Bochy said that second baseman Freddy Sanchez (left shoulder, left knee) could be ready to begin fielding groundballs by the weekend.

MLB Network will air the Giants’ “Inside the Clubhouse — Town Hall Meeting” on four separate occasions (all times Pacific): Sunday, 9:30 p.m.; Monday, 7:30 p.m.; Tuesday, 1:30 p.m.; Wednesday, midnight.

– Chris Haft

Giants eyeing Torrealba

SAN FRANCISCO — Preparing for the possibility that they won’t re-sign Bengie Molina, the Giants have contacted the representative for Yorvit Torrealba, another free-agent catcher.

Giants general manager Brian Sabean said last Monday that the Giants wouldn’t offer Molina, their regular catcher for the previous three seasons, more than a one-year contract, given 22-year-old Buster Posey’s impending readiness for the Major Leagues. Sabean also reiterated his belief that at least one other team will offer Molina the multiyear contract he seeks.

Conceivably, if the Giants signed Torrealba, their backup catcher from 2001-05, he would handle the bulk of the playing time until Posey developed sufficiently.

Melvin Roman, Torrealba’s agent, confirmed the Giants’ interest. “They called and asked about him,” Roman said Monday. “But as of right now I have no other comment.”

Torrealba rejected a two-year, $4.5 million offer from Colorado earlier this offseason. The Rockies also declined to pick up a $4 million option on his 2010 contract, which made him a free agent. Torrealba is a “Type B” free agent, so though the Rockies would receive a “sandwich” draft pick if another team signed him, the signing team wouldn’t lose one of its selections.

– Chris Haft

Posey gets first start

SAN FRANCISCO — The inevitable is about to become reality Friday night at AT&T Park, where Buster Posey will start his first Major League game.

Posey, the Giants’ catcher and, some believe, franchise player of the future, will combine with Tim Lincecum to form San Francisco’s battery. That’s a combination Giants officials hope will take the team to the Promised Land (i.e. the World Series) someday.

The Giants’ unlikely chances of catching Colorado in the National League Wild Card race, combined with Bengie Molina’s hand injury, prompted Posey’s entry into the lineup.

“It’s time,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “We know it’s a longshot where we are with nine games to go. And with Bengie banged up, it’s time to give Buster some starts and playing time. … It’s not an easy debut, catching Timmy and facing [Carlos] Zambrano, but he can handle it.”

Molina sustained a contusion on one of his fingers when a foul tip struck him on his left (gloved) hand, which has been sore much of the season. X-rays showed no fracture, but Molina was in intense pain.

Posey, the Giants’ No. 1 selection in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, has appeared in three games, all as a late-game replacement. He entered Friday’s game with a single in three at-bats.

– Chris Haft 

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