SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. He couldnt walk for three months.One surgery rebuilt his ankle. Another removed the screws. When he returned to baseball, no single activity was pain-free. No amount of treatment could take away the soreness, the stiffness, the unpredictable breaking of scar tissue.As for the mental scars, they are as raised and raw as ever. He cant forget or forgive the baserunner who vaporized him on that awful night.This is not Buster Poseys story. This belongs to Todd Jennings.Nobody wants to sign an injured catcher, said Jennings, a former Giants prospect and second-round pick out of Long Beach State. Im going to these open tryouts and some of these people have no business being there. Had one with the Dodgers last week. Did really well, too. Im in the best shape of my life, finally feeling 100 percent.But its hard. Its hard when nobodys seen you play in four years.Jennings, like everyone else, saw replay after replay of Poseys collision on May 25. It began with a fly ball and a throw from the outfield. Posey dropped right fielder Nate Schierholtzs one-hop heave. Florida Marlins pinch runner Scott Cousins, as if shot from a sling, delivered a targeted, shoulder-to-shoulder blow.Posey had fallen to his knees. He was a sitting duck.Same exact thing, dude, Jennings said.For Jennings, AT&T Park was Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha. His Scott Cousins was a blocky, Triple-A outfielder named Mitch Maier. It was May 2, 2008, and the first inning. Fresno left fielder Justin Leone caught a fly ball and heaved his throw. It was up the line.Jennings fell to his knees. He was a sitting duck.Both plays were sacrifice flies. Both times, the catcher paid it.Both times, Schierholtz was the right fielder.I dont recall all the specifics, said Schierholtz, of that cool night in Nebraska. But Ill never forget the hit.It was worse than Poseys collision. Maier was bigger than Cousins. Jennings was smaller than Posey.Absolutely blown up, Schierholtz said. It did not look good. It was very, very similar to Busters collision. Obviously, we didnt have a replay over and over. But he lowered his shoulder. He got killed. Complete yard sale, stuff flying everywhere.It was hard to watch that happen to a friend.This spring, Schierholtz and his teammates are watching with hope and optimism as Posey straps on his gleaming gear, catches bullpens, takes batting practice and runs the bases. He remains the golden child of the organization, the first star position player drafted and developed since the days of Will Clark and Matt Williams. He is expected to bring his lamp to the cleanup spot and guide a league-worst offense out of darkness.But more than nine months after the collision, Posey is not healed. Not yet. And nobody can understand his pain better than Jennings.I know, said Jennings, who tore an MCL in his knee in addition to multiple ankle ligaments in his crash. Hes going to find its tough mentally more than anything. You want to come back and perform, but the ankle and the whole situation hinders you from doing what you normally can.At where he is now, nine months, hes just going to be real, real stiff and its going to affect his performance because the ankle is pretty critical for being a catcher. Hes not going to be as mobile blocking balls and stuff like that. Your range of motion, you just dont have it because of all the scar tissue. No matter how much you do to loosen it up, its still there.Hell be all right, but this year will not be easy. Hell have to be patient have to be.Posey knows what lies ahead. He spent the offseason working with Giants physical therapist Tony Reale, who has remained in contact with Jennings. Plenty of NFL players have recovered from three torn ankle ligaments. Jennings is one of few test cases for a catcher.The big questions to be answered this spring, beginning Friday when Posey plays for the first time in 288 days: How much can he catch? Is 100 games too much? Or 120? Or will his ankle tolerate much less? On days he doesnt catch, should be start at first base? Or will his ankle require complete days of watching, powerless and jacketed, from the dugout?Jennings cannot provide a perfect comparison. Posey is more than nine months removed from the injury. Jennings was barely six months out when he went to play winter ball in Mexico.But I know if he plays on it every day for two months, hes going to be done, Jennings said. It was killing me after three weeks. So if Im running their team, Id give him just three or four games a week to start, at least for the first month or two.Posey wont be in the lineup every day this season. But hell spend all 162 in the trainers room. Dave Groeschner has prepared Posey for that reality. Itll be hour after dull hour on the table, alternating ice and heat.Everyone wants him to be perfect, but hes going to have bouts of soreness all year long, said Groeschner, the Giants head athletic trainer. He knows that. Weve talked about that. Its just about trying to manage it as best we can, knowing that hes going to play a lot.The nice thing about spring training is it can be much more controlled than the regular season. Were trying to add things in incrementally to see how he tolerates it, how he feels, and so far, its been good.Will he get tired of staring at those ceiling tiles in the trainers room?He already is trust me, Groeschner said, with a faint smile. This year its going to be a necessary evil. We know he doesnt want to be in there, but hes dealing with it pretty well.Jennings is still dealing with the fallout. Its hard to forget that night in Omaha when its your last in affiliated baseball.After Mexico that winter, Jennings was invited to major league spring training with the Giants in 2009. Still sore but managing his knee and ankle, he reported early with the other catchers. Posey was in his first big league camp and Jennings remembered taking a liking to the kid.We got along well, Jennings said. Wed go down in the cages and sit on the pitching machines, hang out and talk.The first week of camp wasnt yet over when Jennings was taking part in a throwing drill. He felt something pop in his elbow. Tommy John surgery. Another 12 months, gone.This time, nobody barreled him over. His wind got knocked out nonetheless.Jennings rehabbed his arm on the Giants tab, but the club released him in the spring of 2010. The organization had too many other catchers. Hed been passed up on the chart.So Jennings found independent ball. In one season, he was a Newark Bear, a Long Island Duck, a Bridgeport Bluefin. He was traded twice in a week. The bank took his condo. When he called his agent, seeking intercession, he couldnt get a call returned.Last year, he found a home with the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks in the American Association. They treated him well there. If the Dodgers dont call, he plans to go back now a 30-year-old catcher amid part-time plumbers and hangers-on, still chasing the dream.He keeps in touch with Schierholtz, Sergio Romo and a few other ex-teammates. He was thrilled when the Giants won the World Series in 2010, even if he had to watch with hands pressed against the glass.He honestly believes he has what it takes to reach the major leagues.I just did four moths of combat training, he said. Im in the best shape of my life. Im throwing as good as ever, so why should I stop playing?Therein lies the hope. Jennings said Poseys ankle wouldnt limit him forever.Its gonna take a solid year, but its gonna heal, Jennings said. It took me at least a year to be 100 percent and not feel anything to be able to run and cut. He might start off slow, but Id expect him to be 100 percent after the All-Star break, barring any setbacks. And in the long run, with all the rehab, its going to be a lot stronger. Now my leg and knee are stronger than they ever were because of exercises I kept doing.But its mental, man. He went though the ultimate mental test. Hey, I applaud him for that. Im sure he has a good family too to stand by him, because its frustrating to watch on TV and not be a part of it. Its hard for me being in Arizona and not having a team to play for.One other detail from that night in Omaha: Mitch Maier was called out.Jennings held onto the baseball. He holds onto it still.When Jennings was thrashing around in pain and shock, his left leg numb and the rest of his body throbbing, Maier did not do what Cousins did. He did not reach back to offer a gentle hand on the shoulder. He made no contact whatsoever.Mitch Maier never called, never texted, nothing, Jennings said. That still eats me. I havent played a game in affiliated ball since that day. Thats why maybe I think (Posey) might have handled that the wrong way by not accepting an apology. But thats his decision.Make no mistake. Jennings isnt questioning Poseys character. He has nothing but admiration for him. By the time Posey guts through this season, Jennings expects to admire him all the more.He knows Posey's story. It belongs to both of them.It makes you, in the long run, a better person, Jennings said. Buster is a great kid with a good head on his shoulders and I think youll see hell be even better after this. Hes going to come out hungry. You watch, hes going to get on some of these other guys.Hell be a better person. Youll see. I guarantee it.
SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants have made a habit in recent winters of “kicking the tires,” so to speak, on as many free agents as possible. General manager Bobby Evans is committed to being thorough, but at times there is probably no need.
Hitters have made no secret of the fact that they prefer friendlier confines, and if you’re a power hitter, you’re going to ask Evans for a significantly larger check to play 81 of your games at the harshest power park in the majors. That’s what makes Giancarlo Stanton, readily available via trade, so intriguing. But would Stanton be fully immune to the realities of AT&T Park?
The numbers, at least in a small sample, suggest he would. Stanton has played 27 games in San Francisco and taken 108 at-bats. He has nine homers, 11 doubles and a triple. His .676 slugging percentage at AT&T Park isn’t far off his mark at Coors Field (.714), and his 1.048 OPS is higher than his OPS during the 2017 season, when he hit 59 homers.
The damage has been done in limited time, but the Giants clearly believe it’s fully sustainable, and a recent study done by ESPN’s Dan Szymborski backs that up. Szymborski ran his ZiPS projection system to estimate Stanton’s stats over the next 10 years for a variety of suitors. The numbers in orange and black are overwhelming.
The projections have Stanton at 46.2 WAR over the next 10 seasons, including 7.1 in 2018 and 6.8 in 2019, the two seasons the organization should be focused on given Madison Bumgarner’s contract situation. ZiPS projects Stanton at 46 homers next season if he plays for the Giants, followed by 43, 42, 39, 35 over the following four years. For comparison’s sake, Brandon Belt led the Giants in homers each of the last two seasons and he has 35 total during that span.
Any sort of projection system needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt, especially with a player who has had injury issues in the past. But ZiPS believes Stanton -- who plays in a huge park already -- is a rarity, the kind of power hitter who can keep crushing well into his 30’s and put up huge numbers even if he is limited by the realities of getting older and getting hurt. Szymborski’s projections have Stanton playing just 102 games in 2025, but he’s still projected to hit 23 homers, 20 doubles and post an OPS+ of 121. Even in the 10th year of the projections, ZiPS has Stanton down for 16 homers.
There are no sure things in this game, but as Evans continues to chase a blockbuster deal, he can be confident that Stanton is one player who should be able to provide power for years to come, no matter what AT&T Park does to hold hitters down.
Former A's left fielder/DH and Bay Area native, Jonny Gomes, last played Major League Baseball in 2015. The next year, Gomes looked to continue his career in Japan with the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
Gomes struggled in Japan, batting just .169 in 18 games. While in Japan though, Gomes saw firsthand the two-way talent of Shohei Ohtani.
"The dude throws 100 miles per hour consistently," Gomes said Tuesday to MLB Network Radio. "That plays."
With MLB, the Players Association, and the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization agreeing to a new posting system, Ohtani should soon be available as a free agent to MLB teams. Gomes was adamant that Ohtani will live up to the hype.
"If you have the arm speed to throw 100 miles per hour, guess what your slider's gonna do -- yikes. And he also has a split, which is yikes with that arm speed. And he also has a changeup, and he also has a curveball. You're talking about five plus, plus, plus pitches.
"If he was in the draft, I think it would be a no-brainer right now that he'd be No. 1 overall," Gomes said.
Since turning pro as an 18-year-old, Ohtani has been a dominant force on the mound. The 6-foot-3 right-hander owns a 42-15 career record with a 2.52 ERA and 1.076 WHIP.
What makes Ohtani, 23, so intriguing is that he's not only the best pitcher in Japan, he may be the best hitter too. In 2017, Ohtani hit .332 with eight home runs in 65 games. The left fielder/DH owns a .286/.358/.500 career slash line with 48 home runs.
"Now hitting wise, is it gonna transfer, is it not? I've seen the dude hit a fly ball that hit the roof of the Tokyo Dome," Gomes remembers. "So, what does that tell you? That bat speed's there, that power's there, that he's generating a lot out front.
"To be able to hit the roof of the Tokyo Dome is way more impressive than hitting any other roof in the states. It would be like hitting the roof in Seattle when it was closed, it's way up there."
Everyone knows about Ohtani off-the-charts talent. The stats are there. What we don't know as much about is his personality. Gomes does and he believes his leadership will make him be a star in the states.
"I'm a big fan of the dude," Gomes says. "I saw his work ethic, I saw how players treated him, I saw how respectful he was. Over there it's all about seniority. Granted he was the biggest star on the field at any given moment, but still gave the utmost respect to seniority guys on his ball club."