SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Cactus League play kicked off with a degree of normalcy for the Giants, who welcomed 863 fans to Scottsdale Stadium for their 5-2 loss to the Angels on Sunday. The supporters saved their biggest cheers for Buster Posey, who caught three innings and reached base in each of his two plate appearances in his first game action in nearly a year.
“It felt good to be back,” said Posey, who sat out the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. “It’s a game I’ve loved to play since I was a kid. Just being able to get out and compete on the field was great.”
Posey drew a walk against Angels left-hander José Quintana in the first inning and singled to the opposite field off right-hander Gerardo Reyes in the third for the Giants’ first hit of the spring. Posey also flashed his arm by firing a nice throw to Donovan Solano when Jared Walsh took off for second in the third, but Walsh was automatically safe after Jo Adell took ball four from right-hander Jay Jackson.
“I thought he looked great on both sides of the ball,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “That was actually the most encouraging part of the day in a lot of ways. High-quality at-bats. He saw the ball well. I thought he did a nice job receiving. He worked with the pitchers well. It looked like Buster Posey.”
Posey said he felt a little “jumpy” when stepping into the box during his first live batting-practice sessions last week, but he’s beginning to settle in and find his rhythm at the plate. He could seek out extra at-bats this spring to help make up for the time he missed, but he doesn’t plan to overdo it if he feels comfortable with his swing.
“I think coming into it my thought is to try to get some more,” Posey said. “But also if we get two to three weeks out from now, and I feel like I’m at a really good place at the plate, I’m not going to grind through Spring Training unnecessarily.”
While he didn’t experience playing in empty stadiums after missing the entire pandemic-shortened, 60-game regular season last year, Posey said he appreciated having fans back in the stands on Sunday.
“Watching the games on TV last year and seeing just cardboard fans in the stands, it was definitely nice to see some live humans out there,” Posey said.
• Austin Slater started at designated hitter on Sunday, but he was removed after one at-bat after experiencing tightness in his hamstring. Catching prospect Patrick Bailey, the Giants’ 2020 first-round Draft pick, replaced Slater at DH in the third inning and grounded out in the first professional at-bat of his career.
• Mauricio Dubón had a rough day at shortstop, allowing a routine ground ball to skip through his legs for an error that led to an unearned run for right-hander Zack Littell in the second. The following inning, Dubón fielded a grounder off the bat of Juan Lagares and unsuccessfully tried to get the forceout at second. He didn’t end up recording an out on the play, as his subsequent throw to first base was too late to get Lagares.
“We mentioned to Mauricio, ‘Glad that it happened on the first day, the first Spring Training game, so we can clean those things up,’” Kapler said. “In large part, it's just a bit of an over-adjustment. ... In this case, it was one of those things where he just needed to speed up a little bit on both plays.”
Dubón is currently projected to start in center field, but the Giants also view him as their top option to back up Brandon Crawford at short.
• Another center-field option, LaMonte Wade Jr., looked comfortable manning the middle of the diamond on Sunday. Wade ranged far into the left-center-field gap to track down a fly ball off the bat of Matt Thaiss in the second. Wade was spotted chatting with left fielder Alex Dickerson afterward to learn more about his communication preferences in the outfield.
Wade said he enjoys playing center because it offers “the best view on the field.”
“You can see everything, it’s all right in front of you, you don’t have a bad angle,” he explained. “And I just like the fact that you can communicate with the left and right fielder, you know just have that responsibility out there and it’s a lot of fun. I enjoy covering all that ground.”
The Giants have said they believe Wade profiles best as a corner outfielder, but they’re taking a look at him in center because they’d like to have a left-handed-hitting bat to pair with Dubón this year.
The Giants will head to Surprise Stadium to face the Rangers on Monday at 12:05 p.m. PT. Right-hander Nick Tropeano, who is vying for a spot on the pitching staff after joining the Giants on a Minor League deal this month, will start opposite Texas righty Kyle Gibson. Caleb Baragar, Kervin Castro, Dedniel Núñez, Anthony Banda and Silvino Bracho are also scheduled to pitch for the Giants.