Pressure accompanies Posey's return


Pressure accompanies Posey's return

SAN FRANCISCO -- Tim Lincecums rock star persona aside, theres no doubt who will be the biggest draw at San Francisco Giants Fanfest at AT&T Park.

The favorite son. Buster Posey is back, without crutches or a boot or a scooter.

And hes expected to be the Giants' offensive savior.

So, no pressure, Buster.

But Posey seems eager to get back into savior mode. He wont mind meeting his adoring fans Saturday. On Friday, in his media session, he made it clear that the fans outpouring of sympathy, concern and get-well cards after his season-ending ankle injury last May was truly meaningful to him.

The fans have been really, really special from the first day that Ive been here, Posey said. It was pretty neat. It was something my wife and I could feel, that we could see. We could feel the emotion watching on TV, see the signs.

No question it helps you. Helps your psyche, helps with the recovery process.

Posey said the recovery process is on schedule. He expects to be the Giants' starting catcher when they open at the Diamondbacks on April 6.

I expect to be, yeah, he said.

He is, however, being realistic. He knows that stints at first andor third could be in the works for him this season and maybe for the long-term.

I enjoy catching, he said. But if I cant, I have to be realistic. I feel pretty confident that I will be able to. Its just a matter of endurance through the course of the year. But I think I will have good endurance.

One thing is for certain: Posey is planning to enjoy every minute of the season.

Im looking forward to every bit of it, he said. When you see how quickly it can be goneIm going to do my best to enjoy it.

Im more appreciative of what I do, he added. Its such a long season that you can get caught up in the grind. I hope I can use it when its August 14th and were playing in Atlanta and its 130 degrees. I can say, All right, well I am playing.

Posey said his rehabilitation was slightly ahead of schedule. He stayed in Arizona until early November and then went home to Georgia. Giants staff members came to visit him and monitor his progress. Though his ankle is stiff in the mornings, he said it feels good in the crouch.

The silver lining of his injury was being a stay-at-home father to his new twins. Now almost six months old, Lee Dempsey and Addison Lynn are trying to figure out how to crawl and take turns keeping their parents awake at night -- they have yet to synchronize their sleep schedules.

Posey said he hasnt talked to Scott Cousins, the Marlin who slammed into him and caused his injury. And he doesnt plan to. He said he wants to move forward and doesnt think hell have any mental obstacles about playing again.

He knows that might be more difficult for his wife.

Im sure it will be, he said. I know my wife will be nervous. But she knows I love what I do.

Posey said his biggest struggle was to keep a positive mindset as the season wore on.

One of the hardest things was, just mentally, keeping a good mind set, he said. Your job is to get healthy and theres not much else you can do. Youre used to coming in every day prepared to play and the next day youre done for the year. Its a big adjustment.

His staff is excited to have him back. Lincecum who got better and better with Posey as 2010 progressed until they were dominant together in the postseason - talked about the groove he and Posey were in early in 2011. On May 21, in a game against the As, Lincecum said Posey drew out the best in him.

I felt like he was just on, Lincecum said. I felt like I didnt have my stuff that day. But he called a great game that day. After I throw the last pitch, strike three, he gives me the ball. I said, good game and gave him a hug,and he said Why arent you excited? I said, Im still pissed because my stuff didnt feel good.

But Posey got him through it. That was their last appearance together in 2011. Four days later, Posey was finished.

Barring an unforeseen spring training setback, Lincecum and Posey should be back together on Opening Day, trying to recapture the magic.

Weve got to be better offensively, Posey said, when asked what the Giants needed. No doubt about that.

Welcome back, Mr. Savior.

Freelance writer Ann Killion is a frequent contributor to and Chronicle Live.

Three teams chasing Giants in tight race for first overall pick


Three teams chasing Giants in tight race for first overall pick

LOS ANGELES — The Giants have a pretty strong track record when picking in the top five of the MLB Draft. In 1985, they took Will Clark with the second overall selection, and Clark remains the highest-drafted player in franchise history. A year later, Matt Williams was taken third overall. Jason Grilli at No. 4 in 1997 is rather forgettable, but taking Buster Posey with the fifth pick in 2008 led to three titles. 

With a week of baseball remaining, the Giants are a lock to pick in the top four of next year’s draft. A few days ago, they looked like a pretty strong bet to pick first overall, but the standings — the bottom of them, at least — have tightened in recent days. Here’s a look at the contenders, so to speak … 

White Sox (63-92): No team went into tank mode this year quite like Chicago, with trades of just about every big piece on the roster. But a funny thing has happened … they’ve actually played decent baseball down the stretch. The White Sox are 11-12 in September after a blowout of the Royals on Sunday. They finish up with four against the Angels and three against the Indians, so they should get pretty close to 100 losses. 

Phillies (62-94): They have looked all along like the team to beat, but they hurt their top-pick chances by taking three of four from the Dodgers last week. They host the Nationals and Mets this week. 

Tigers (62-94): All of a sudden, they’re the biggest road block for the Giants. The Tigers have lost seven straight and they’re 4-20 in September. They finish up with three against the Royals and three against the Twins, and all six games are on the road. 

Giants (61-95): Can we stop for a moment and appreciate this. We’ve been talking about it for five months, but still, it’s pretty amazing that a $200 million team is headed into the final week with a very good shot at having the worst record in Major League Baseball. What an awful season this has been. Having said that, the Giants have not shown any signs of actually tanking, and manager Bruce Bochy said this weekend that he won’t shut any players down. So, it’s on to Phoenix, where the Giants have lost six of seven this season but the Diamondbacks might chill out a bit after clinching a postseason spot. They’ll face Zack Godley, Robbie Ray and Zack Greinke. The season ends with three at home against the Padres. The Giants have struggled against the Padres for the last year and a half, but they’ll have Matt Cain going in an emotional start and Madison Bumgarner will also get a game. 

Given another look at fastball, Williamson gets revenge against Kershaw

Given another look at fastball, Williamson gets revenge against Kershaw

LOS ANGELES — Mac Williamson was sent up to pinch-hit when the Giants faced Clayton Kershaw earlier this month, and on a two-strike count, he watched as Kershaw shook off five different signs as he stood on the mound. Kershaw then froze Williamson with a fastball. It was a good lesson for Williamson, a player still trying to find his footing at the big league level.

“He’s a guy you can’t really guess with,” Williamson said. 

The outfielder admits he tends to overthink things. “I’m a perfectionist,” he said Sunday. But given a start against Kershaw, Williamson let his talent — and a little luck — take over. Williamson’s first hit off Kershaw was a bleeder that resulted in an infield hit. His second bounced through the middle of the infield for a single. The third one was the highlight of the day for the Giants. 

Kershaw had a shutout going when he tried to sneak a first-pitch fastball past Williamson in the eighth. He blasted it to dead center. It was the only run for the Giants in a 3-1 loss to the Dodgers. 

“It’s good to see him get those swings off,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “That homer was to the big part of the park. It shows how strong he is.”

The Giants have always known Williamson has the strength and raw talent. He hasn’t stuck for a number of reasons, including injuries and that aforementioned tendency sometimes to overthink at the plate. It probably hasn’t helped, either, that the Giants tend to sit him for days at a time and then play him against the Kershaws and Zack Greinkes and Rich Hills of the world. 

Williamson took advantage of the tough assignment on Sunday, joining a small group of Giants who have three hits in a game off Kershaw. 

“Hunter was ahead of me,” he said, smiling. “He beat me to it.”

Pence also had three hits, giving the Giants six from the corners against the best pitcher in the game. It wasn’t enough, but for Williamson, it was something to build off as the offseason approaches. He said it’s a winter he doesn’t plan to take lightly. Williamson’s agents are working to line up a Winter Ball job in the Dominican Republic.