NBC Sports

Giants' Kapler leaves no doubt about Posey's role in 2021

NBC Sports

Giants catcher Buster Posey doesn't hit nearly as many homers as he used to, but every once in a while he gets into one, and often he'll smile for cameras a couple hours later and credit his dad strength. Apparently Posey, now a father of four, will bring more of that to the field next season. 

Manager Gabe Kapler said he has seen Posey around Oracle Park several times in recent months and noted that the catcher, who sat out the 2020 season, is in great shape. 

"I think everyone will notice when they see him that he has added some muscle, some usable lean tissue," Kapler said on a Zoom call Tuesday afternoon. "He's looking agile and strong and fresh. I think the time off gave him an opportunity to kind of reassess where his body was and he has taken that opportunity to make improvements."

RELATED: MLB start date reportedly in jeopardy 

It's about two months too early for Best Shape of His Life Stories, and this is not that. But it is important nonetheless, mostly because any quote about Posey's playing shape for 2021 is also a quote about Posey playing in 2021. The longtime face of the franchise opted out in early July after his family adopted twin girls, but Posey maintained then and in all future public comments that he would be back next season, and Giants officials never had any reason to feel otherwise. 

 

On Tuesday, Kapler called Posey "a surefire lock" for the roster. He said it's hard to predict right now how many games Posey will catch, but the Giants are 100 percent viewing him as their starting catcher. 

"He'll be our primary catcher, and not just a voice we'll lean on heavily, but between the lines we're going to utilize his brain and body to the best of our ability," Kapler said. 

Posey had just seven homers in 2019 and an OPS+ of 83 that put him below league average as a hitter for the first time in his career. For the first time since 2014, he didn't make the All-Star team. But the Giants do believe Posey will look like a new man next year -- or perhaps closer to his old self -- and not just because he had his first summer off since the time he first picked up a bat. Posey is an extra year removed from major hip surgery, and even last spring there were signs that he was moving better and showing some of his old bat speed. 

Download and subscribe to the Balk Talk Podcast

Posey stayed away from the team after he opted out, but he returned this fall to work out at Oracle Park, where he has run into Kapler on several occasions. The new manager learned three weeks before his first game with the Giants that he would be relying on a pair of minor leaguers to lead the pitching staff. When the Giants finally turned to Joey Bart, the production didn't get much better. 

Giants officials have already paved the way for Bart to start next season in Triple-A, but at some point he'll be back. He has been the future of the position since he was taken second overall in 2018, and whether it is one additional month or three of development, the Giants will eventually have to decide how to split playing time between Posey and Bart. Kapler said it's still too soon to pick a lane.

"I think those thoughts are still in progress. I don't think it's any secret that last year was a challenge for Joey on a number of different levels," Kapler said. "We think that the development time that he had at the major league level was really good for him and we'll continue to assess his readiness and just think about Buster as a surefire lock for our opening day roster and (getting) the lion's share of the reps back there."