SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. He couldnt walk for three months.One surgery rebuilt his ankle. Another removed the screws. When he returned to baseball, no single activity was pain-free. No amount of treatment could take away the soreness, the stiffness, the unpredictable breaking of scar tissue.As for the mental scars, they are as raised and raw as ever. He cant forget or forgive the baserunner who vaporized him on that awful night.This is not Buster Poseys story. This belongs to Todd Jennings.Nobody wants to sign an injured catcher, said Jennings, a former Giants prospect and second-round pick out of Long Beach State. Im going to these open tryouts and some of these people have no business being there. Had one with the Dodgers last week. Did really well, too. Im in the best shape of my life, finally feeling 100 percent.But its hard. Its hard when nobodys seen you play in four years.Jennings, like everyone else, saw replay after replay of Poseys collision on May 25. It began with a fly ball and a throw from the outfield. Posey dropped right fielder Nate Schierholtzs one-hop heave. Florida Marlins pinch runner Scott Cousins, as if shot from a sling, delivered a targeted, shoulder-to-shoulder blow.Posey had fallen to his knees. He was a sitting duck.Same exact thing, dude, Jennings said.For Jennings, AT&T Park was Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha. His Scott Cousins was a blocky, Triple-A outfielder named Mitch Maier. It was May 2, 2008, and the first inning. Fresno left fielder Justin Leone caught a fly ball and heaved his throw. It was up the line.Jennings fell to his knees. He was a sitting duck.Both plays were sacrifice flies. Both times, the catcher paid it.Both times, Schierholtz was the right fielder.I dont recall all the specifics, said Schierholtz, of that cool night in Nebraska. But Ill never forget the hit.It was worse than Poseys collision. Maier was bigger than Cousins. Jennings was smaller than Posey.Absolutely blown up, Schierholtz said. It did not look good. It was very, very similar to Busters collision. Obviously, we didnt have a replay over and over. But he lowered his shoulder. He got killed. Complete yard sale, stuff flying everywhere.It was hard to watch that happen to a friend.This spring, Schierholtz and his teammates are watching with hope and optimism as Posey straps on his gleaming gear, catches bullpens, takes batting practice and runs the bases. He remains the golden child of the organization, the first star position player drafted and developed since the days of Will Clark and Matt Williams. He is expected to bring his lamp to the cleanup spot and guide a league-worst offense out of darkness.But more than nine months after the collision, Posey is not healed. Not yet. And nobody can understand his pain better than Jennings.I know, said Jennings, who tore an MCL in his knee in addition to multiple ankle ligaments in his crash. Hes going to find its tough mentally more than anything. You want to come back and perform, but the ankle and the whole situation hinders you from doing what you normally can.At where he is now, nine months, hes just going to be real, real stiff and its going to affect his performance because the ankle is pretty critical for being a catcher. Hes not going to be as mobile blocking balls and stuff like that. Your range of motion, you just dont have it because of all the scar tissue. No matter how much you do to loosen it up, its still there.Hell be all right, but this year will not be easy. Hell have to be patient have to be.Posey knows what lies ahead. He spent the offseason working with Giants physical therapist Tony Reale, who has remained in contact with Jennings. Plenty of NFL players have recovered from three torn ankle ligaments. Jennings is one of few test cases for a catcher.The big questions to be answered this spring, beginning Friday when Posey plays for the first time in 288 days: How much can he catch? Is 100 games too much? Or 120? Or will his ankle tolerate much less? On days he doesnt catch, should be start at first base? Or will his ankle require complete days of watching, powerless and jacketed, from the dugout?Jennings cannot provide a perfect comparison. Posey is more than nine months removed from the injury. Jennings was barely six months out when he went to play winter ball in Mexico.But I know if he plays on it every day for two months, hes going to be done, Jennings said. It was killing me after three weeks. So if Im running their team, Id give him just three or four games a week to start, at least for the first month or two.Posey wont be in the lineup every day this season. But hell spend all 162 in the trainers room. Dave Groeschner has prepared Posey for that reality. Itll be hour after dull hour on the table, alternating ice and heat.Everyone wants him to be perfect, but hes going to have bouts of soreness all year long, said Groeschner, the Giants head athletic trainer. He knows that. Weve talked about that. Its just about trying to manage it as best we can, knowing that hes going to play a lot.The nice thing about spring training is it can be much more controlled than the regular season. Were trying to add things in incrementally to see how he tolerates it, how he feels, and so far, its been good.Will he get tired of staring at those ceiling tiles in the trainers room?He already is trust me, Groeschner said, with a faint smile. This year its going to be a necessary evil. We know he doesnt want to be in there, but hes dealing with it pretty well.Jennings is still dealing with the fallout. Its hard to forget that night in Omaha when its your last in affiliated baseball.After Mexico that winter, Jennings was invited to major league spring training with the Giants in 2009. Still sore but managing his knee and ankle, he reported early with the other catchers. Posey was in his first big league camp and Jennings remembered taking a liking to the kid.We got along well, Jennings said. Wed go down in the cages and sit on the pitching machines, hang out and talk.The first week of camp wasnt yet over when Jennings was taking part in a throwing drill. He felt something pop in his elbow. Tommy John surgery. Another 12 months, gone.This time, nobody barreled him over. His wind got knocked out nonetheless.Jennings rehabbed his arm on the Giants tab, but the club released him in the spring of 2010. The organization had too many other catchers. Hed been passed up on the chart.So Jennings found independent ball. In one season, he was a Newark Bear, a Long Island Duck, a Bridgeport Bluefin. He was traded twice in a week. The bank took his condo. When he called his agent, seeking intercession, he couldnt get a call returned.Last year, he found a home with the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks in the American Association. They treated him well there. If the Dodgers dont call, he plans to go back now a 30-year-old catcher amid part-time plumbers and hangers-on, still chasing the dream.He keeps in touch with Schierholtz, Sergio Romo and a few other ex-teammates. He was thrilled when the Giants won the World Series in 2010, even if he had to watch with hands pressed against the glass.He honestly believes he has what it takes to reach the major leagues.I just did four moths of combat training, he said. Im in the best shape of my life. Im throwing as good as ever, so why should I stop playing?Therein lies the hope. Jennings said Poseys ankle wouldnt limit him forever.Its gonna take a solid year, but its gonna heal, Jennings said. It took me at least a year to be 100 percent and not feel anything to be able to run and cut. He might start off slow, but Id expect him to be 100 percent after the All-Star break, barring any setbacks. And in the long run, with all the rehab, its going to be a lot stronger. Now my leg and knee are stronger than they ever were because of exercises I kept doing.But its mental, man. He went though the ultimate mental test. Hey, I applaud him for that. Im sure he has a good family too to stand by him, because its frustrating to watch on TV and not be a part of it. Its hard for me being in Arizona and not having a team to play for.One other detail from that night in Omaha: Mitch Maier was called out.Jennings held onto the baseball. He holds onto it still.When Jennings was thrashing around in pain and shock, his left leg numb and the rest of his body throbbing, Maier did not do what Cousins did. He did not reach back to offer a gentle hand on the shoulder. He made no contact whatsoever.Mitch Maier never called, never texted, nothing, Jennings said. That still eats me. I havent played a game in affiliated ball since that day. Thats why maybe I think (Posey) might have handled that the wrong way by not accepting an apology. But thats his decision.Make no mistake. Jennings isnt questioning Poseys character. He has nothing but admiration for him. By the time Posey guts through this season, Jennings expects to admire him all the more.He knows Posey's story. It belongs to both of them.It makes you, in the long run, a better person, Jennings said. Buster is a great kid with a good head on his shoulders and I think youll see hell be even better after this. Hes going to come out hungry. You watch, hes going to get on some of these other guys.Hell be a better person. Youll see. I guarantee it.
SOMEWHERE IN THE AIR, United States — On the first day of the Winter Meetings, I discovered that my hotel room for the week was a few doors down from a section of rooms and suites dedicated to the Chicago Cubs. So either I have a lot of juice with Marriott or the Cubs have very little juice.
They were a happy group as they came in and out, and for good reason. The Cubs are the reigning champions and they’re the heavy favorites going into 2017. Every other team at the Gaylord National Resort was chasing Theo Epstein and his guys. The Giants, after landing closer Mark Melancon, feel they have the firepower to compete with the Cubs.
The Melancon move is the big one of the Giants’ offseason and it obscured just about everything else. Here are some other notes, quotes and rumors from five days at the Winter Meetings:
--- Bobby Evans said the Aroldis Chapman deal ($86 million) came in right around where the Giants expected. The two sides never met in person, and while the Giants kept tabs on the Chapman market, he was always viewed as an unlikely choice. Part of that has to do with a 30-game suspension last season for a domestic violence incident. Evans said the off-field stuff was “not lost on us.” The Giants knew many of their fans were strongly opposed to a Chapman deal.
“Our hearts and minds were really focused on one guy,” Evans said as he discussed the closer market. It was Melancon, and the Giants got the guy who will now head a bullpen that blew 30 saves during the regular season.
Evans took some good-natured shots at that number, by the way. He pointed out that many of those “blown saves” came in the sixth or seventh innings and the Giants won a lot of those games. The more important number for the front office was ninth-inning blown saves that led to losses. The Giants lost nine such games, including five in September.
“That’s the difference,” Evans said. “If you reduce that number to five or four, then that’s maybe the difference in your division.”
The Giants finished four games behind the Dodgers.
--- Joe Maddon said his biggest fear in the postseason was facing Johnny Cueto in Game 5.
--- Angel Pagan was not at the ballpark for the final game of the season. He had an injection in his injured back and was allowed to stay home to try and recover. The Giants told Pagan to prepare for a Game 5, but some team officials believe his postseason was probably over regardless of how far the Giants got.
--- It was a little surprising, by the way, how little mention there was of Pagan and other Giants free agents. Pagan was briefly connected to the Orioles at one point but otherwise his name has not come up. There are no Gregor Blanco rumors, and nothing significant with Sergio Romo, Jake Peavy, Javier Lopez or Santiago Casilla.
Giants people who have talked to Romo say he has at least a couple of offers and he’s confident he’ll find a good fit. Lopez is said to be headed for retirement unless an East Coast team (he lives in Georgia) makes a great offer. Peavy is said to be ready to fight for a job as a non-roster invitee in spring training. It seems the majority of the ex-Giants might have to go the non-roster route. Currently, none are expected to return to San Francisco.
--- Gordon Beckham is technically a “Giants free agent” and several people in the clubhouse approacedh management to relay what a positive impact Beckham had in his week there. He is the kind of energetic, ball-busting presence that helps over a 162-game season, and everyone in the organization loved having him around, but they’re looking for power bats right now when it comes to the bench.
--- Ramiro Pena is close to a deal to return as a non-roster invitee. The Giants will also add a catcher for Triple-A depth. They’re selecting from a group that includes former Dodgers and Cubs catcher Tim Federowicz.
--- There will be new managers up and down the minor league system. The affiliates are expected to announce those choices soon.
--- At the risk of wiping out a bunch of future "The Player to be Named Later has not been named" tweets, here's how it works: The Giants gave the Mariners a small list of prospects they'll watch in spring training, and they'll scout them and choose one player as the return for Chris Heston. It will not be a significant prospect.
--- Under Armour will be the exclusive uniform provider of MLB starting in 2020, and all jerseys will have a small Under Armour logo on the chest. No exceptions, from the awful Diamondbacks jerseys to the Yankees pinstripes to the Giants. It was bound to happen eventually. The Giants have some of Under Armour’s most prominent baseball players, including Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Joe Panik.
--- The Giants never had any intention of pursuing a reunion with Pablo Sandoval. If they can add depth at third, they will, but for now Eduardo Nuñez is slated to be the opening day starter. Keep in mind, too, that Christian Arroyo will primarily play third base in the minors from now on.
--- Bill Hayes, who was relieved of his duties as first-base coach, will stay with the big league staff. His exact role has not been determined. Roberto Kelly will not return in a different role.
--- CSN did a bunch of one-on-one interviews this week, and two of them — Evans and Bruce Bochy — are available here as podcasts. If you’re a fan of the podcast, please consider hitting subscribe on iTunes. It’s good for the pod.
--- In case you missed it: Here's an explanation of why the Giants are unlikely to add an expensive outfielder. The Giants currently have four players set for the WBC. Hensley Meulens will manage the Netherlands. Ryan Vogelsong helped Melancon choose the Giants. Bochy on if he has any postseason regrets.
--- Melancon will be introduced at a 1 p.m. press conference on Friday. It will air on CSN Bay Area and you can stream it on this website.
Former Giants outfielder Andres Torres lost his wife on Wednesday evening.
Soannie Torres passed away from cancer.
Andres played for the Giants from 2009 to 2011 and again in 2013.
During the Giants' World Series run in 2010, he hit .268 with 16 home runs and 63 RBI over 139 regular season games.
In the World Series against the Rangers, he batted .318 and hit a home run.
Torres was the 2010 winner of the Willie Mac Award, -- given annually to the Giants' most inspirational player.
To donate to the Soannie Torres Memorial Fund, click here.
A VERY SAD day,🙏🏽😭my friend Andres lost his wife SOANNIE and now she Rest In Peace with GOD by her side!😔THANK YOU EVERYONE for prayers!✝️🎗 pic.twitter.com/MfJLMBQNUk— Bengie Molina (@BengieMolina1) December 8, 2016