PEORIA, Ariz. — Call it baptism by fire — or fireballer.
Giants star Buster Posey is scheduled to start at catcher today in an exhibition game in Scottsdale, Ariz., against the Cincinnati Reds.
And in his first at-bat since he was injured early last season, Posey will likely face one of the hardest throwers in the majors. The Reds’ probable starter is Aroldis Chapman, whose fastball has been clocked at more than 100 mph.
“Might as well get the foot down early,” Posey said, referring to how he triggers his swing by lifting his front foot and putting it down.
“I’m excited to play,” Posey said. “I’ve been telling you guys since spring training began: I am just excited to be playing.”
Posey spoke Thursday morning before a workout in Scottsdale. He did not make the trip to Peoria, where the Giants won their third straight Cactus League game, beating the San Diego Padres 5-2.
“He’s [been] waiting for this day for quite a while,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s been a long road for him, this rehab.”
Posey broke his left fibula and tore ligaments in his ankle May 25 in a collision at home plate. The ankle required surgery, and Posey and the team’s training staff have tested it in phases.
He has been catching in workouts since pitchers and catchers reported last month. He has been hitting and working on other baseball activities.
The final hurdle for the ankle was base-running, particularly turning, which he tried for the first time Tuesday. He ran the bases for the second time Thursday.
“It felt great,” he said. “I’m really happy how the ankle has responded.”
Posey, who will turn 25 on March 27, was the offensive star and on-field leader of the 2010 Giants team that won the franchise’s first World Series championship since 1954.
“He means a lot to this club,” Bochy said.
Posey was called up in May 2010, hit .305 with 18 homers and 67 RBIs in 105 games and was voted National League Rookie of the Year. He initially played first base in the majors, but shifted to catcher after Bengie Molina was traded to the Texas Rangers at the end of June.
Posey’s offensive production slipped some in 2011. At the time of his injury, he was hitting .284 with four homers and 21 RBI through 45 games.
Posey was injured when he was bowled over by the Marlins’ Scott Cousins, who was trying to score on the play. The play set off a firestorm over Cousins’ decision to knock over Posey rather than slide, and it raised the issue of revising the rules to protect catchers on plays at the plate.
In Posey’s absence, the 2011 Giants were last in the National League in runs (570). The weak offense was blamed for the Giants’ disappointing season.
Notes: Freddy Sanchez, who has not played since he separated his shoulder June 10, is expected to DH today. ... Madison Bumgarner started Thursday for the Giants. He threw 44 pitches, completed three innings, struck out five, gave up two hits, a walk and no runs. ... San Francisco went 23-12 in the Cactus League in 2011, the most victories and second-highest winning percentage behind the Kansas City Royals in the major leagues last spring.