The man who knows Posey's pain

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The man who knows Posey's pain

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.

Cubs outfielder vows he didn't give Trump the middle finger at White House

Cubs outfielder vows he didn't give Trump the middle finger at White House

WASHINGTON – Albert Almora Jr. didn’t use Wednesday’s Oval Office photo op as a subtle form of political protest, but it did sort of look like the Cubs outfielder gave President Donald Trump the middle finger, at least from that angle in an image that went viral on Twitter.    

“There was two fingers! Look closely, there was two fingers!” a veteran player yelled across the room as reporters gathered around Almora’s locker inside the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park. 

“Guys were giving me a hard time about it,” Almora said, “but I pointed out the second finger. We’re all good.”

In another White House visit that didn’t look nearly as unofficial or informal as the Cubs said it would be, one snapshot became Almora with part of his left hand in his pocket. Almora stood near Kris Bryant – who held a 45 Wrigley Field scoreboard panel – and Trump at his desk with the World Series trophy.

“Obviously, it’s unfortunate,” Almora said with a laugh. “I’m getting ready to take a picture and I’m posing there. But you guys know that I would never do that to the president of the United States. 

“I respect everybody. It is what it is. We laugh about it now, but there’s definitely two fingers out there.”

READ MORE AT CSNChicago.com

Giants notes: Melancon gets injection; Kontos gets an at-bat

Giants notes: Melancon gets injection; Kontos gets an at-bat

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants were annoyed by Monday’s “rubbing teammates the wrong way” report for a number of reasons, but near the top of the list was the fact that the target, Mark Melancon, has been pitching hurt to try and help a last-place team. That’s no longer the case. 

Melancon went on the DL on Wednesday morning and later had a PRP (platelet rich plasma) injection in his right arm to try and ease some of the discomfort in his pronator. He is expected to be out the rest of the first half. Melancon would be eligible to return with two games left until the break, but there’s no point in rushing him. He missed 12 games the first time this came up and he now has more than two weeks to rest before the second half kicks off. 

In the meantime, Sam Dyson is the closer, but he was unavailable Wednesday because of a heavy workload. So Bruce Bochy got creative to close out a 5-3 win over the Rockies. George Kontos came on for a sharp Ty Blach in the seventh and carried the lead to the eighth. Steven Okert got through the 26th out and Hunter Strickland came in to get Ian Desmond to fly out for his first save of the year. 

Because Bochy wanted Kontos to face Pat Valaika in the eighth, he got an at-bat 15 hours after Cory Gearrin got to take his hacks. It at first looked like Kontos had “don’t swing” orders, but he fouled a ball off. 

“The second fastball I got, if it was near the plate, I was going to swing,” he said. 

Kontos said he doesn’t have bragging rights over Gearrin because he fouled a ball off, noting that Gearrin is 1 for 2 in his career and he is 0 for 8. It turns out that they used the same bat, too. Yes, there is a Cory Gearrin model.

“It’s just been hanging out since last year,” Gearrin said, looking down at his equipment bag. “Just in case.”

--- Dan Slania woke up a 4:30, drove to Philadelphia, and boarded a flight that was went down through Nashville to fuel up. He arrived in San Francisco in time for the second inning. And then he watched, met with old teammates, showered … and prepared to fly all the way back to Pennsylvania. 

“I’m going to pass out as soon as I get on the plane,” Slania said. 

He wasn’t complaining at all. The Giants needed a potential innings-eater with Melancon on the DL, and if Slania is sent back down before Friday’s game, he’ll at least be back near Double-A Richmond and the flight back will have been taken on a chartered jet with a bunch of former teammates. Plus he gets a couple of service days. 

“I can tell you it’s well worth it,” Bochy said. 

--- The main story today is about Jae-gyun Hwang, who brought some more life to a team that got its first sweep of the year. The standings are what they are, but the Giants are playing much better, and some players started talking Wednesday about how they’re looking forward to being a spoiler for teams like the Rockies and Diamondbacks. 

More than anything, the players are just happy that they got to listen to the victory soundtrack again and walk out of this park with smiles. 

“We did a really good job of coming into this series and decided what the intent should be,” Nick Hundley said. “We weren’t going to worry about what’s been going on. You control what you can control. It’s nice when the results match up.”

There was a players-only meeting on Monday and Hundley said “everybody got on the same page again.”

Now the tricky part: Keeping it going on the road. 

--- Nolan Arenado is a freak and the Giants should give him a blank check, a ton of Facebook stock, and the rights to the Salesforce building when he’s a free agent in two and a half seasons. 

--- Ryder Jones is hitless in 16 at-bats but he was keeping his head up. He was an inch or two from a double down the line Wednesday and the Giants feel he’s having good at-bats. More than anything, he's not taking those results into the field and he talked about that at length when we sat down for a podcast the other day. If you subscribe on iTunes here, you’ll have it in the morning.