Programming note: Giants-Nationals coverage starts today at 3:30 p.m. with Giants Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
WASHINGTON – The Giants didn’t arrive at their hotel until after 5 a.m. Friday, and Buster Posey had caught 14 innings the previous day at Wrigley Field.
So Giants manager Bruce Bochy called Buster Posey into his office to make sure he’d be all right to catch the series opener with the Washington Nationals.
“He wants to go, he feels good, and you know what, he was squatting when he was in here talking,” Bochy said.
Bochy and the Giants recognize how much better Posey’s offensive numbers are as a first baseman this season, and the manager acknowledges it probably isn’t a coincidence. Still, Bochy said there have been no thoughts or discussions about pulling Posey out of the squat in 2015.
If they did, though, he’d play first base – not third.
“Down the road, I’m sure it’s something we’ll talk about,” said Bochy, who is encouraged by Andrew Susac’s development and felt the same way about Hector Sanchez before a series of concussions.
“It could lighten the load on Buster at some point down the road. Whether at some point he will get out from behind the plate, I can’t answer that. Right now it’s not discussed but I will say it’s always nice to have options. It’s a beautiful thing to have that option and put someone down there, whether it’s Susac or Sanchez, who we know can handle the staff.”
Posey is batting .385/.435/.526 in 22 games as a first baseman and .265/.324/.425 in 88 games as a catcher. He had to take Wednesday off to receive treatment after his right hip tightened up, an injury that has caused Bochy to rest him at least two other times this season. He has an occasional back issue as well.
The hips are a direct result of catching, Bochy acknowledged, saying Posey’s hips aren’t as loose as someone who has spent his entire baseball career as a catcher. Posey converted from the infield while at Florida State.
“I think he gets a little nervous watching me walk, like that’s the way he’ll be walking,” Bochy said.
Although the Giants need a Plan B if they cannot re-sign third baseman Pablo Sandoval, and Posey has the requisite arm strength, hands and reaction skills to handle the hot corner, Bochy said he’d sooner put Posey at first base whenever he would shift out from behind the plate.
Bochy acknowledged he isn’t surprised the hitting numbers are so much better when Posey plays first base.
“It’s easier on the body playing first base,” Bochy said. “There’s a lot of activity at first base and you can’t drift mentally, but it is easier. … It makes sense that he probably should hit a little bit more.”
As for third base, Bochy said, “His hands, his arm, everything would work. But it would take a lot of work.”
In the meantime, Posey lifted his numbers as a catcher when he went 4 for 4 with two doubles, a homer and a walk in Thursday’s 5-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs. Earlier in the week, Giants hitting coach Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens encouraged Posey to be more aggressive early in the count, informing him that he was hitting .488 when putting the first or second pitch into play.
Although Posey is an excellent two-strike hitter and his average is well above the league baseline, it’s still .192 when a count gets to two strikes. What really sold Posey, Meulens said, was when he informed him he was hitting just .250 on a 3-1 count.
“That’s supposed to be a hitter’s count,” Meulens said. “But when he’s doing damage, he’s doing it early. Pitchers know he’s going to take. They’re not really pitching around him.”
Meulens said it’s evident to him when Posey’s sore hips are affecting his swing.
“He tells me when he feels something, but he doesn’t have to,” Meulens said. “He stops rotating through the zone. Even on his takes, you see him coming off and lifting up. So to see him feeling good, take swings like he did (Thursday), is a great sign for us.”
Meulens began working with Posey two weeks before pitchers and catchers reported to Arizona this spring. The 2012 NL MVP was determined to start the year locked in after an unproductive second half in 2013.
“He wanted to be better than he was in 2012, but with the injuries, it’s not happening,” Meulens said. “All I want to get out of him is to be Buster these last 30-something games. We need him.”