As a rookie, Buster Posey drew headlines like, “Too Good to Be True,” along with comparisons to one of the best hitters in the game, Minnesota Twins’ catcher Joe Mauer. Even Hall of Famer Johnny Bench said: “He’s got it all.”
But after Posey fractured his fibula and tore ligaments in his left ankle last May, some questioned whether he could ever return to his pre-injury form.
After 85 games, Posey looks every bit like the mild-mannered southern gentleman who stamped his place into Giants’ lore with clutch hit after clutch hit during the team’s 2010 World Series run. Once again, he’s heading the Giants’ charge with his soft-spoken leadership and Tuesday he’ll strap on the pads for his first All-Star Game as the starting catcher for the National League.
“It’s humbling,” said Posey, regarding his All-Star selection. “It’s something you dream of.”
While Giants fans panicked in the aftermath of Posey’s May 25, 2011, home plate collision with the Marlins’ Scott Cousins, the 2010 National League Rookie of the Year found solace in the birth of his twins, Lee and Addison.
“That kept me busy, it was really good timing,” Posey said. “I was able to be there at their birth and with them really every day for the first six months. That was definitely the silver lining through the whole thing.”
Posey, 25, took his first steps without crutches in August, by September he was hitting off of a tee and in October he caught his first bullpen session.
“I was a little nervous, I didn’t know [what to expect],” Posey said.
But it wasn’t long before he regained his timing at the plate in spring training. His first hit was a home run and in 40 at-bats, he put up a more than respectable .325 batting average. Posey carried the momentum into the regular season, batting .353 in April, and he hasn’t let up.
“I think it’s been very remarkable, impressive, with all the time he’s missed,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I thought it’d take some time for him to get back in the flow of the game, catching and swinging the bat; but it happened a lot sooner than I thought.”
Pitcher Matt Cain said the impact of Posey’s return can’t be measured by statistics alone.
“He’s just a good guy to have in the clubhouse,” Cain said. “It’s not even what he does on the field sometimes, it’s just his presence being out there for us.”
As a catcher, Posey’s also responsible for calling the game and managing the staff. The Giants’ arms are carrying the team again this season and Ryan Vogelsong said it’s, in part, a reflection of his work behind the plate.
“I just trust him, it makes it easy to throw to a guy you trust,” Vogelsong said. “I think everybody trusts him. He obviously has a good idea of what’s going on because I don’t think we would be pitching the way we are as a team if he didn’t.”
Posey said one key to his return is that he didn’t get caught up in the worrying game. Instead, he’s trying to savor his time on the field.
“I’m just excited to be back and playing again and enjoying it,” he said. “I think that’s something I’m going to try to hold on to and not lose sight of because it can be gone quickly. No matter what, through the highs and lows, you’ve just got to appreciate the position you’re in.”
A look at catchers who have made the All-Star team in Giants’ franchise history:
2012: Buster Posey
2002: Benito Santiago
1970: Dick Dietz
1967: Tom Haller
1966: Tom Haller
1963: Ed Bailey
1961: Ed Bailey
1958: Bob Schmidt
1952: Wes Westrum
1948: Walker Cooper
1947: Walker Cooper
1946: Walker Cooper
1943: Ernie Lombardi
1941: Harry Danning
1940: Harry Danning
1939: Harry Danning
1937: August Mancuso
1935: August Mancuso
WHEN: Today, 10:35 a.m.
WHERE: PNC Park, Pittsburgh
TV: Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
RADIO: KNBR (680 AM)