SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There was no guarantee that Giants catcher Buster Posey would be ready for Opening Day after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum and remove bone spurs from his right hip in August. Earlier this spring, Madison Bumgarner even admitted that he didn’t expect Posey to return in time for the 2019 season opener.
Much to Bumgarner and the rest of the Giants’ delight, Posey has enjoyed a smooth rehab and remains on track to start behind the plate when the club’s longtime ace takes the mound against the Padres on Thursday in San Diego.
While Posey has not suffered a major setback, there remain questions about what kind of catching workload the 31-year-old veteran will be able to handle, especially early in the regular season.
“I’ll have to watch him early in the season,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “We’re not going to grind him. We don’t know how he’s going to respond or bounce back after catching back-to-back nine-inning games. We’re hopeful. We’ll cross that bridge before the season starts.”
After missing out on Bryce Harper, the Giants will enter the season without a significant upgrade to an offense that ranked 29th in the Majors in runs and OPS last year. They are pinning much of their hopes for a more productive lineup on the improved health of Posey and other veterans.
Posey batted .284 with a .359 on-base percentage over 105 games for the Giants last season, but he at times played through debilitating hip pain, which prevented him from using his lower half and robbed him of his power. He finished the year with only five home runs, his fewest since 2011, and a career-low .741 OPS.
Now that Posey’s hip is structurally sound, the Giants are optimistic that he’ll be able to regain some of his pop and be the elite middle-of-the-order hitter he’s been throughout his career. Posey entered Saturday batting .241 (7-for-29) over 11 Cactus League games, but he’s firing his hips and appears less restricted at the plate.
“I’d say the main thing that I’m trying to work on right now is just getting back to more of the consistent load that kind of went away,” Posey said. “That kind of plays into the rhythm and timing of things.”
First baseman Brandon Belt said he’s already noticed a difference in how Posey has been swinging compared to last season.
“To me, he looks like the old Buster,” Belt said. “I don’t know if it reflects in his stats or whatever, I haven’t looked, but he looks like the old Buster to me. For him, it’s just getting comfortable with it again. You’ve got to get that confidence back, and that trust back.
“It’s been a long time since he’s got out there and played in games. He’s got to get comfortable with it again. His last memory of playing baseball was when his hip was killing him. He couldn’t get his back hip in, and he couldn’t drive the ball. That changes your approach a little bit. Now he’s got that freedom back there. He knows he’s got to get comfortable with it again, and used to it again. When you’ve got a Hall of Fame player like that, there’s no question he’s going to get it back.”