DENVER It is so easy to forget the most important factabout Buster Posey.
Not only is he coming back from a horrific ankle injury. Notonly does he play the most grueling position on the field. And not only is hethe Giants brilliant cleanup hitter.
Hes also playing in his first full major league season.
Sure, 2010 was grueling right up to Nov. 1 and Game 5 of theWorld Series. Its not like his labors in the minor leagues didnt count inApril and May of that season before the Giants called him up on the way to aRookie of the Year campaign for the ages.
But a full grind in the big leagues? A full 600-plus plateappearances against the best pitching in the land? (And the Rockies.)
He hasnt done it yet.
There was every logical reason to believe that Posey would wear down in the second half.
So in that light, consider what he has done in recent days:
--After hitting a two-run home run as part of an 11-6victory Saturday night at Coors Field, Posey has hit safely in sevenconsecutive games, has a .438 average over that span and has homered in threeconsecutive games for the first time in his career. (And he's the first Giants catcher to homer in three straight since Brian Johnson in May, 1998.)
--He has 25 RBIs since the All-Star break, the most of anyNL player.
--Hes now seventh in the NL with a .325 average and ninthwith a .920 OPS. Hes also eighth with 68 RBIs, and hes knocked in those runsin only 396 total plate appearances. Every hitter above him on the RBI list hasover 400 TPAs.
--Hes crushed left-handers all season for a .413 average(43 for 104) with nine home runs. Thats even better than teammate MelkyCabreras .405 average against left-handers (45 for 121). No wonder the Giantsare 23-11 against southpaw starters.
--And yes, hes making a stealth run at the NL MVP award.
Hes a great player, Bochy said. It seems like hes oneof the best young players in the game. It's fun to watch his focus at the plate hes so relaxed and theres never any panic with him.
At a time when it would be completely realistic to expecthim to be slowing down, especially after he started the All-Star Game, Posey iscatching fire.
It would be simplistic to say that regular rest is the reasonPosey has sturdy legs under him at the plate. You have to credit his work ethicand the Giants training staff as well.
But Manager Bruce Bochys prudence certainly has contributedto the situation.
Well, weve talked about that, Bochy said. Its not easyto rest him when we have, but its paid large dividends especially here inthese so-called dog days. Thats what the plan was. Its enabled him to havefresh legs. Tomorrow will be a tough call. Hell want to be out there, but wehave to do whats right.
After meeting with Posey, the decision was made: As long ashe wakes up feeling fine, hell start at first base Sunday afternoon. His bat is simply too hotto take out of the lineup, and the Giants want to get greedy as they go for asweep.
They'll have many more days ahead in this NL West when greed becomes need.
I think Bochy has done a great job, said Posey, who hasstarted 16 games at first base, three at designated hitter and rested for 14others. I really appreciate his communication. Thats something that everyplayer appreciates.
Has it been difficult for Posey to sit out, as he did onThursday when the Giants lost to finish a miserable 3-7 homestand?
You try to keep it in perspective and that theres twomonths left in the season, Posey said. Its important to recover. Sometimesits tough and I wish I was in there. But if you ask (head trainer Dave)Groeschner, hed be pleased with the amount of at-bats I have so far.
Posey is on pace for 599 plate appearances. Hes also onpace to start 136 games, 112 of them behind the plate. His ankle still barks at him, but its recoveringquicker. Long games like Saturday night's slog dont nag at him the way they once did.
All in all, Im happy with how its recovered, he said. Itsgotten better and better as the years gone on.
Poseys patient, measured approach has been a metronome foran offense that hasnt always thrown out good at-bats on a day-to-day basis. Hesbeen a steadying influence. It's an influence they didn't have down the stretch last year.
It's a reason to believe the Giants, for all their warts, might be able to see this thing through.