SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Buster Posey committed early to this year’s World Baseball Classic, and he has spoken often of how much it will mean to represent his country and try to grow the game. Over three weeks in big league camp, he found another reason to be excited about Monday's flight out of Arizona.
“I’m ready to get there. I’m tired of answering questions from my fellow teammates on when I’m leaving,” he said, smiling. “I don’t have to say ‘Monday, March 6’ anymore.”
The day has finally come for Posey and shortstop Brandon Crawford to take off. They were originally supposed to be joined by Johnny Cueto, but the right-hander will skip at least the first round because of a late arrival to camp. Cueto is scheduled to make his Cactus League debut on March 11; the Dominican Republic begins pool play March 9.
Posey and Crawford will be in action a day later when Team USA takes on Columbia. Both Giants will start and they should carry a heavy load. They’ve been counting down the days to the tournament. Asked if he was excited about this week’s games, Crawford said, “I was excited about it when I got invited.”
The two changed their spring routines to get ready for the tournament, but Posey was nearly derailed. He missed time last week with a stiff neck, an ailment he termed “old man neck.”
“It’s feeling young again,” he said.
That has been apparent on the field. Posey found his swing in recent days, and he had two hits in his final tuneup, including a two-run single the opposite way.
“I feel pretty good right now,” he said.
Crawford would normally ease into the spring, and in past years he has taken time to rest his throwing arm. He has had a healthy spring, allowing for 17 at-bats prior to his departure. But he only has three hits.
“I feel close, I just haven’t been making hard contact,” he said. “I’ve been saving (the hits) for the tournament.”
Asked if he has talked much with other members of his WBC lineup, Crawford smiled. He pointed out that Eric Hosmer was at first base for the Royals on Sunday.
“I would’ve talked (to future teammates) if I could have gotten on base,” he joked.
Crawford will team with Nolan Arenado to form a frightening defensive duo. Posey will have a more complicated transition to make, leading a staff of strangers, one that includes Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer, Toronto’s Marcus Stroman and Cleveland’s Andrew Miller. Posey admitted there’s not much he can do to try and prepare for pitchers he hasn’t caught before.
“I’ll try to talk to them a little bit the next couple of days, maybe watch some film when we’re there,” he said. “But it’s tough. You’ve just got to rely on your instincts.”
Posey’s instincts behind the plate are as good as it gets. That’s one reason why Bochy is confident in a United States team that hasn’t lived up to past expectations.
“I think Buster’s experience and his ability to figure out how to win big games, that can make a difference,” Bochy said.