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Posey determined to regain peak form

Giants MVP catcher added muscle in offseason, likes teammates' diligence

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Buster Posey is doing everything he can to prevent a repeat of last season, including practicing his bunting. That's right, bunting.

More than an hour before Monday's regularly scheduled workout, Posey entered the batting cage at Scottsdale Stadium to try tapping a few dozen balls along the baselines. Third-base coach Tim Flannery, the Giants' bunting guru, dispensed baseballs into the pitching machine and advice and encouragement to Posey.

"This wasn't my idea," Flannery good-naturedly yelled to an onlooker. No, it was Posey's. And it was a good idea, too.

As Posey explained, sharpening his bunting would force him to concentrate on focusing on the incoming pitch until it hits the barrel of the bat -- exactly what he wants to accomplish with his swing. The drill exercised Posey's hand-eye coordination and his ability to position his bat at a proper angle.

It was a small yet helpful step toward Posey's preparation for the regular season.

"I think spring's a process," Posey said. "You have to go into it with the pride and mentality that you're not going to come out personally with guns blazing to start with. But you need to be doing the correct things, be working toward the ultimate goal of 'peakness,' I guess you could say, as the season approaches."

The Giants hope Posey won't peak at all, but instead reach a plateau and more or less remain there. That's largely what he accomplished in 2012, when he batted a National League-high .336 with 24 home runs and 103 RBIs while winning a slew of awards, including NL Most Valuable Player. Posey's performance sagged last year, when he hit .294 with 15 homers and 72 RBIs.

Most catchers fantasize about having a 2013 campaign like Posey's. But having proven capable of more, he seeks excellence, not just competence.

So Posey, who turns 27 on March 27, transformed last year's disappointment into diligence. No more 42-point dips in batting average. No more third-place NL West ties for the Giants.

"I definitely think it served as extra motivation," said Posey, who gained 10 pounds, mostly muscle, due to his winter workouts.

Posey pointed out that gaining weight wasn't his objective. Gaining power that resulted from the added pounds was. Posey faded physically as last season elapsed, batting .325 with 13 homers before the All-Star break and .244 with two homers after the Midsummer Classic. His 16 RBIs following the break matched the seventh-fewest among NL players with at least 200 plate appearances.

"I think maybe the 10 pounds part is not necessarily the focal point. The focal point was more about being strong and explosive," Posey said. "That's our game. That's baseball. You have to be strong, but everything you do is explosive. Hitting is explosive. Pitching is explosive. Catching and blocking [pitches] are explosive. So I think that was more of the focal point, trying to get in good shape to maintain that throughout the course of the year."

Posey acknowledged that last year eroded him mentally as well as physically: "I think when you really struggle like we did last year, you're constantly thinking, 'What can I do differently? What can we all do differently to get back on track?' After doing that for a few months, yeah, it can take a toll on you."

Fortunately for the Giants, Posey wasn't the only player to report to camp in encouraging shape. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval lost weight. Right-hander Tim Lincecum might have thrown more in the offseason than ever. Dependent on speed, center fielder Angel Pagan stayed sleek below the belt while developing a prizefighter's arms.

"I think that's somewhat unique about baseball," Posey said. "Football guys have a lot of camps in the offseason; I don't know how basketball does it. But the onus is on the player to be in good shape and obviously you think guys at this level are going to do everything in their power to be in their best shape. But I don't think that's always the case."

Seeing his teammates renew their momentum has buoyed Posey's optimism.

"It's been good," he said. "We have a lot of the same guys back, so everybody's comfortable with each other. But when we're out on the field, everybody's taking it seriously and trying to get better each day."

Chris Haft is a reporter for Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat.

San Francisco Giants, Buster Posey