Stephen Vogt

Buster Posey disappointed Giants didn't re-sign good friend Nick Hundley

Buster Posey disappointed Giants didn't re-sign good friend Nick Hundley

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Pitchers and catchers report first, and on that initial day on the field, most of the attention is usually on the large collection of starters and relievers taking turns on the bullpen mounds. 

But when the Giants stroll out of the clubhouse shortly after 10 a.m. on Wednesday, all eyes may be on the men getting ready to strap their gear on. Buster Posey has been running this drill for a decade, but for the second time in his career he’s coming off a major injury, and the Giants plan to ease him in.

Joey Bart, last year’s top pick, will be with big leaguers for the first time. In between those two is a large and varied group battling to back up Posey. 

It’s a wide open race, mostly because of who won’t be there Wednesday morning. The Giants did not sign Nick Hundley to a third straight big league contract, and he inked a deal with the A’s on Monday. As Posey leads a contingent at Scottsdale Stadium, Hundley, his trusted backup the last two years and a Willie Mac Award winner in 2017, will be 20 minutes away in Mesa. 

“I was disappointed,” Posey admitted Tuesday when asked about the Giants not bringing Hundley back. “Nick is one of my all-time favorite teammates and one of my best friends. I think that he brings so much on a daily basis. We would have loved to have him back, for sure.”

Giants officials have not spoken publicly since Hundley signed elsewhere, but it’s not hard to connect dots. Farhan Zaidi values flexibility on the field — Hundley only plays catcher — but also off of it. Aside from Aramis Garcia, the rest of the catchers in big league camp are here on minor league deals, so none are locked in as the backup on Day 1. Garcia has minor league options remaining, so he can be moved back and forth from the majors to Triple-A during the season if the Giants are so inclined. 

Garcia is the only catcher other than Posey on the 40-man roster, although that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the current frontrunner. Cameron Rupp, 30, brings power from the right side. If Stephen Vogt can get fully healthy, his proven left-handed bat could give him an edge. Posey said Tuesday that he’s always “been a fan of him, too.” 

Rene Rivera, another well-traveled veteran, will get attention, in part because he walked into camp with platinum hair and in part because the Giants know him well. The 35-year-old has gotten some big hits off the Giants. 

[RELATED: Stephen Vogt calls chance to play with Giants 'lifelong dream of mine']

“The good thing is he’s not going to beat us like he normally does,” Posey said. “It seems like he always destroys us.”

The Giants still may add catching depth, but already, they have put together an interesting group. As Posey gets healthy and Bart soaks it all in, the rest will take part in one of the better competitions in camp.

Stephen Vogt calls chance to play with Giants 'lifelong dream of mine'

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AP

Stephen Vogt calls chance to play with Giants 'lifelong dream of mine'

Stephen Vogt became a fan favorite in Oakland over his five seasons with the A's. But, his roots have always been in San Francisco as a Giants fan. 

“It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to play for the Giants,” Vogt said to the San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s going to come true this year.”

Growing up in Visalia, Vogt and his family ventured to San Francisco every year to watch his two favorite players, Will Clark and Barry Bonds. On Monday, Vogt and the Giants agreed to a minor-league contract, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Bay Area.

The 34-year-old catcher arrived in Arizona on Monday night and is expected to take his physical Tuesday when Giants pitchers and catchers report to camp. 

“I’ve kind of had a Christmas-morning feel the whole time since we agreed," Vogt said. 

The Giants have been seeking depth at catcher behind Buster Posey, who underwent hip surgery in August. On the same day they agreed to a deal with Vogt, the team's former backup behind the dish, Nick Hundley, agreed to a deal with the A's.

“The chance to catch alongside Buster and learn from him and work together and help win games, I’m super excited for that,” Vogt said.

[RELATED: Giants show frustration with MLB's slow free agency as offseason ends]

Vogt missed the entire 2018 season as a member of the Brewers as he recovered from shoulder surgery. He told the San Francisco Chronicle that he's throwing nearly 90 percent from 150 feet and nearly 100 percent from 90 feet, though he needs to work more on throwing from the crouch. He's also played 73 games at first base in his career and 21 in the outfield. 

As A's fans chanted "I believe in Stephen Vogt," he became a two-time All-Star in Oakland. Vogt is a career .251 hitter and has 57 home runs to his name.

Giants set to open spring training with plenty of positional battles

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USATSI

Giants set to open spring training with plenty of positional battles

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants on Monday morning were part of a pair of transactions that seemed odd on the surface. While Stephen Vogt is preparing to take a physical and sign a minor league deal with the organization, Nick Hundley signed a similar deal with the A’s

Why not just bring Hundley back? Farhan Zaidi wants flexibility, on the field and off, and that made Hundley a less-than-ideal fit. Signing him for a third straight year would have locked the Giants into their catchers on Feb. 11. With the group currently in place, it would be a shock if any catcher spends the entire season backing up Posey, as Hundley did. 

It’ll be a different kind of camp for the Giants, and as they look to become younger, more athletic and more versatile, we might see some roster permutations that would have looked out of whack under the previous regime. As players prepare to take the field at Scottsdale Stadium for the first time, here’s a look at some of the competitions that should heat up … 

Outfield: Assuming Steven Duggar doesn’t have any setbacks, there are two starting spots to be won here, in left and right. Bryce Harper certainly could take one of them, and even if he chooses another team, the Giants likely will add a veteran. But they traditionally go with five outfielders, so currently there may be four spots up for grabs. The Giants really would like to take a long look at Drew Ferguson, the Rule 5 pick who must make the roster or else he must be offered back to the Astros. Mac Williamson is out of options and has the longest track record of big league success. He’s currently a favorite to start in one of the corners and could land in the starting lineup even if Harper is added. 

Backup catcher: Buster Posey expects to be ready for Opening Day, but he’ll be slow-played in April, so this is an important spot. Aramis Garcia is the frontrunner after a nice September — remember, he can play first base, too — but there are plenty of veterans who will be given a shot this spring to win the job, which would allow Garcia to get more minor league at-bats. Cameron Rupp has had big league success and Vogt, if he can get his shoulder back to 100 percent, is a two-time All-Star who can play first and has dabbled with the outfield. Rene Rivera was signed Friday and the Giants still could add another veteran to the mix. 

Fifth starter: Madison Bumgarner will start Opening Day and it’s a pretty good bet that Drew Pomeranz and Derek Holland will follow in some order. If Jeff Samardzija is healthy, he’ll be in the rotation, but the Giants could ease him into the regular season. That leaves Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez, both of whom had long stretches of dominance as rookies. On merit, they deserve to be in the rotation at the end of camp, but Zaidi has been open about limiting their innings early on. One could end up in the bullpen, or perhaps back in the minors for a few weeks. 

Last spots in bullpen: Did you remember that Josh Osich, Roberto Gomez and Pierce Johnson made the Opening Day roster last season? There’s always a surprise with the bullpen, and the Giants have plenty of candidates in camp fighting for that spot on the line in San Diego.