Giants' Buster Posey is right on schedule, pleased with how hip feels


Giants' Buster Posey is right on schedule, pleased with how hip feels

SAN FRANCISCO — In the middle of an interview Friday afternoon, Buster Posey noticed that a local cameraman’s microphone was slipping off a table in front of him. He quickly reached down and grabbed it before it crashed to the floor. 

“See, hands are good still,” he cracked. “Hands are good.”

That was never a concern last season. Without the ability to properly use his lower half in his swing, Posey still managed to bat .284 by consistently flicking pitchers’ best stuff right back up the middle. That’s no way to go through the second half of a career, though, and Posey underwent serious hip surgery in August. 

On Friday, back at Oracle Park with his teammates, he said he’s encouraged by a long winter of rehab work and has no concerns about his status for Opening Day. He also said he's hopeful his power will return in 2019. 

“That’s the reason you do the surgery,” he said. “To try to get back to where you previously were before the damage.”

Posey played on a compromised hip throughout the 2018 season and finally succumbed in late August, as the Giants fell out of the race and prepared to trade Andrew McCutchen. On August 27, he had surgery to repair a hip impingement and torn labrum. He also had a microfracture procedure to promote healing. 

Despite playing just 105 games, Posey led the Giants in WAR (2.9) and was a finalist for the Gold Glove Award. His .359 on-base percentage ranked second among MLB catchers. It was a good season, but the Giants believe much more is on the way. Posey has had no setbacks during the rehab process, and Farhan Zaidi and Bruce Bochy are prepared to see the Posey of old, even if it may take a bit longer than usual to fully ramp up. 

Posey anticipates being ready for the first full-squad workout later this month, but it also seems likely that his true schedule won’t be revealed until the Giants have actually started playing Cactus League games. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him held out deep into March, just in case, and Zaidi said they could take it easy in April, too. 

“We’re going to be smart about it, careful about it,” he said. “Not just going into camp, but even going into the season. Even if he’s ready to carry a full catching load to start the season, I’m not sure that would be the prudent course for us. I think we’re really going to err on the side of caution and that’s one of the reasons that continuing to look for catching depth is going to be important for us.”

Ultimately, the Giants hope Posey can again be his normal self for 110-120 games behind the plate, with plenty more thrown in at first. That’s what Posey has been preparing for, and he said he had a relatively normal January, starting to hit right after the new year. 

“I’ve been pleased with how it’s felt,” he said. 

Posey has been around long enough that he doesn’t just pay attention to the sound of the ball coming off his bat or the rotation of his hips. While discussing the rehab process, he pointed to one moment that stood out. He was doing a single-leg lifting drill and said he could “really feel my right side of my gluteus maximus engage.” 

“I’ve felt like things are more symmetrical with all my leg exercises,” he continued. “Hopefully that’s a good sign.”

Perhaps that’ll even propel him to new heights. Posey, 31, is attacking a new season knowing that his body will allow him to do things he couldn’t a year ago. He smiled as he talked about the difference he has felt while simply running. 

[RELATED: Posey on Giants possibility of signing Bryce Harper]

“I expect to steal 20 this year,” he said. 

That would be something new. The Giants would settle for simply getting what they had before. 

Why Farhan Zaidi is shrugging off Giants', Gabe Kapler's early hiccups

Why Farhan Zaidi is shrugging off Giants', Gabe Kapler's early hiccups

The Giants have dropped five of their last six games after losing the series opener to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night. They've committed several more errors than games played, and are the only team in the league without a quality start to this point.

Often times, it hasn't been pretty. Though San Francisco had been a pleasant surprise record-wise prior to the current road trip, the reality of the situation is that the Giants don't have a roster that you would confuse with the typical contender.

Gabe Kapler has had some slip-ups, but as president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi explained to 95.7 The Game's "Damon, Ratto and Kolsky" on Wednesday, he isn't concerned about his manager.

"He has a challenging job right now," Zaidi said, "because ... this is a lineup, a roster, a pitching staff that sort of needs to be managed pretty actively. We don't have five workhorses in the rotation who are going to throw seven innings where you just hand the ball to your setup man and your closer. He's obviously having to mix and match a lot on the pitching side, on the position player side we're trying to use the entire roster. We're platooning some, that means pinch-hitting some. 

"And when you're a manager and you have to make that many moves -- as many moves as our roster kind of behooves right now -- every time you make a move ... you're making a lot of 55/45, 60/40 bets that get scrutinized and if they don't work out, the onus kind of falls on you. ... But again, I look at some of our best wins this season and they've come from a lot of the decisions that he has made. So, we think this is the way to manage our roster that gives us the best chance to be competitive and win games, and I appreciate that he's willing to pull the trigger and be aggressive with a lot of these moves."

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Kapler's self-admitted most embarrassing mistake to date occurred in last week's extra-innings loss to the San Diego Padres in which he forgot about the new rule requiring pitchers to face a batter following a mound visit. He owned up to it immediately following the loss and shouldered the blame, which Zaidi found to be plenty satisfactory.

"What happened with going out to try to get Tyler Rogers in that extra-innings game last week," Zaidi continued, "I think he owned up to it, it was just a mental screw-up. He has been around the game a long time, had a long career and he just owned it. It was a tough inning, there was a lot of things going on. I'm sure there was a lot of stuff going on in the dugout. I just wrote that off as kind of a mental screw-up, which he owned up to and we turn the page."

[RELATED: Stat, odd moment show how poorly Samardzija has started]

Given the state of the Giants' roster and the general unprecedented gameplay in this shortened season, it's easy to see why Zaidi is willing to cut Kapler some slack and give him the benefit of the doubt. 

Kapler hasn't exactly been dealt a winning hand, and it would be a significant surprise if he turned it into one right away.

Jeff Samardzija's rough start to season displayed by stat, odd moment

Jeff Samardzija's rough start to season displayed by stat, odd moment

There's a stunning stat from Jeff Samardzija's first three starts that shows how much he's struggling right now, but perhaps in this case all you need is an exchange from the Giants' loss Friday night. 

When Samardzija grazed Dodgers utility man Kiké Hernandez to load the bases in the fifth inning, Hernandez insisted over and over again to the home plate umpire that he had not been hit by the pitch. It was a strange sight, and the Giants even challenged the call -- with no luck -- to try to send Hernandez back to the box, but it seems that it's not a good sign that he wanted to be there in the first place. 

The Dodgers were remarkably comfortable against Samardzija, who is coming off a solid year but has had a nightmare start to 2020. In a 7-2 win over the Giants, they were quiet the first time through the order, then busted out for three homers the second time through. 

Samardzija walked off the mound in the fifth with the bases loaded. For the third time in three starts, he was charged with five earned runs. 

"I think he had a little bit of a lack of fastball command," manager Gabe Kapler said. "This is a very difficult lineup to get through even if you're locating your pitches."

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

The Dodgers proved that with the three homers, which brings us to the stunning stat. In three starts, totaling just 13 2/3 innings, Samardzija has allowed six homers but struck out just five batters. Right now, he doesn't have the stuff or command to put hitters away. 

"Too many times we're getting these 0-2, 1-2 counts and battling for too long," he said. "We need to make sure that when we're getting them in the hole, we're finishing them. You give these big league hitters too many opportunities, they're going to take advantage of it. We've got to get them up and set them down as fast as possible."

Samardzija actually looked marginally better in the first three innings, getting six pop-ups and shallow fly balls. But those turned to homers the second time through, dropping the Giants into too large a deficit. The loss was their fifth in six games and put them five games behind the Rockies and 4 1/2 behind the loaded Dodgers after a little over two weeks of action. 

It won't get any better without a sharp turn from the starting pitchers, and the Giants don't have an obvious solution right now if Samardzija keeps struggling. Drew Smyly will be reevaluated when the road trip ends next Wednesday. Swingman Tyler Anderson already is needed for Smyly's spot. 

[RELATED: Reyes Moronta joins alternate site]

The Giants will hope the stuff improves and the command returns for Samardzija, at least enough to make hitters look less comfortable than Hernandez did. 

"He didn't think it hit him," Samardzija said. "I told him it must have hit his jersey or something. They're all gamers over there, they all want to play. I respect those guys a lot. He's just being honest. It's a good quality."