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.
“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.