SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. There was a collective lump in thethroat and a catch of breath Friday night. Buster Posey was involved in a playat the plate.
For the first time since the May 25 collision that wreckedhis ankle and ruined the Giants season, Posey stood ready to receive a throwwith a runner bearing down on him.
He positioned himself a little further in front of theplate, caught a strong heave from center fielder Angel Pagan, turned and lungedas he applied a swipe tag to Mitch Moreland.
Moreland was safe. More importantly, so was Posey.
Predictably, the Giants cleanup-hitting catcher did notmake a big fuss over the play in the fifth inning Friday night. It might haverepresented a major emotional moment for a fan base, and perhaps some of his teammates,too. But not for him.
I was more thinking kind of about the work wed done thisspring and all the practice and stuff, Posey said. And I think I think itwas good.
Posey immediately called timeout and went to the mound -- notto settle down his own nerves, but to check on left-hander Madison Bumgarner,who had allowed three consecutive singles.
He was just giving me a breather, Bumgarner said. I wasmaking good pitches and he wanted to make sure I wasnt getting frustrated.
Bumgarner needed the moment to process what hed just seen,though. He saw the play unfolding and flashed back to May 25, when ScottCousins delivered his targeted, ankle-snapping, shoulder-on-shoulder hit.
Oh yeah, yeah, definitely, Bumgarner said. I was thinkingit the whole time. I didnt think itd be that close until I saw the throwcoming in. It was in the back of my mind, for sure.
Because Posey is setting up further in front of the plate, the Giants might give up a few runs on close plays at the plate. Bumgarner is fully aware of that -- and he's fully OK with it, too.
"One run's not worth him missing the whole year again," Bumgarner said.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy has said that Poseys instinctswould take over on plays at the plate. Posey said other than setting up a stepfurther into fair territory, he didnt change much about his technique.
But even last year, Id position myself in front of theplate, he said. So I dont think its that big of a change for me, to behonest with you.
I think its sometimes tough to visualize it because everythrow and every play is different. You might get a short hop or a long hop oryou might go to your left or right. But as much as possible, you try tosimulate in practice what youll get in a game.
Bochy approved of the way Posey handled the play, with one critique.
"We talked about it and the tag could've been a little lower," Bochy said. "But I thought he was in good position to make a swipe tag."
Bochy rolled his eyes a bit when asked about the significance of the play.
"It's baseball. You'll have plays at the plate," Bochy said. "He'll have more plays and he'll get more comfortable with each one. You move on. We'll continue to work on these plays at the plate. I'll say this: He spent a long time recovering. He knows there will be plays and there might be contact."
Posey wasnt sure if umpire Derryl Cousins made the rightcall until Bochy went back to check the replay. Posey said he tagged Moreland high, but he was hook-sliding so perhaps hegot his hand across the plate before the tag.
Still, Posey had no complete assurance that Moreland wouldhook-slide. If Posey had any hesitation, he didnt show it as he left his feetbriefly while lunging to apply the tag.
Moreland's view: "With two outs, I did everything I could to get in there. He gave me the plate. That's why I slid across the outer half. He gave me the plate. There wasn't going to be any collision."
Posey looked good and blocked several balls in the dirtwhile catching six innings. He is on the schedule to start at first base Friday the first time all spring that he will play defense on consecutive days. He saidhis ankle is ready to handle an increased workload, including catching nineinnings and going back-to-back days.
The Giants play day games after night games four times intheir first 10 contests of the season; theyll have 39 of those quick turngames in all this season.
Posey said he hopes to play in many of those.
Its hard to tell until you do it, he said. But from theway my ankles felt so far this spring, Im optimistic I will be able to.