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Posey's power surge was Giants' best sign from first week

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Buster Posey

The Giants pride themselves on being more prepared than their opponents, but there are some things you simply can't know until you take the field. That was the case this spring with the expectations for Buster Posey.

Would Posey look like a hitter who turned 34 a few days before the season started? Or would he look like one who had a full year to rest his body and get further removed from major hip surgery?

The early returns are extremely positive, but you didn't have to see the swings to know that. All you had to see was how hard Posey had to work to keep from smiling as he answered questions on Zoom after Saturday's 4-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners. 

"It definitely feels a lot better, it feels good," he said. "I feel like I'm moving well. I'm able to move through the zone faster."

Posey's first swing in a big-league game since Bruce Bochy's last game in 2019 resulted in a no-doubter to left. The homer left the bat at 106.5 mph, an exit velocity Posey reached just five times all of 2019. He didn't pull a homer with that kind of exit velocity all season. 

"Two years ago he wouldn't have been able to do that," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "It looks like his hip is a lot healthier now and he's able to turn on those pitches. We're probably going to see a lot more of that from Buster this year."

 

The second homer might have been even more instructive. Posey jumped on a first-pitch fastball from Yusei Kikuchi and pushed it out to center, letting the left-hander's 94 mph strength do most of the work. The ball landed 404 feet away. 

"You've seen a lot of balls hit on the screws to the middle of the field over the course of the last two games and that was the one that got out," manager Gabe Kapler said after the 6-3 win on Friday. "That ball was drilled and it's obviously very encouraging to see him go out in the middle of the field, and a big field at that."

Posey now has been a big leaguer for a dozen seasons and has seen it all, but he said it was still a big deal to get off to that kind of start. It was a reminder of what he can do when healthy and swinging freely. 

"It's always nice to get one early, and I definitely think that particularly with the way I turned on that pitch (in the opener), I don't think I've done that in a while," Posey said. "Even the one I hit (in the second game), it felt like I really stayed through it well, so it was nice to see."

The two-day explosion was Posey's best in terms of power since 2017, when he hit five homers in seven games at one point in May, but finished with just 12 overall. He hit five in 2018 and seven in 2019, but he certainly is off to a good start in terms of getting back to double-digits, which would be a nice boost to a lineup that no longer needs him in the heart of it

The Giants are confident Posey can produce if healthy, and they're going to go a long way to keep him there. Posey said he was "really pleased" with the way his body felt after catching 10 innings Thursday and nine more on Friday, crediting the training staff for keeping him loose, but Kapler still rested him Saturday night even with a rare Sunday off day on the schedule. 

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Posey might be swinging like someone who has had a full year to rest, but the Giants aren't going to forget that he's a 34-year-old catcher. Posey said he has worked with the training staff to alter the way he's taking care of his body this season. 

"I think for me the priority has to be stretching and mobility over everything else, so that's kind of restructured my priorities as far as my hip goes," Posey said. "I was able to build up a lot of strength in the offseason but I think going forward now with how much torque on a daily basis is going through it, I would put stretching and staying loose ahead of weight lifting. Not that I'm not going to lift weights, but I would just put it ahead."

 

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