SCOTTSDALE, AZ. — The Giants will play several regulars, including their expected starting outfield, but will sit out catcher Buster Posey when they open their Cactus League schedule on Saturday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Posey, though he’s “real close” to returning after his season-ending ankle injury in May, probably is a few days away, manager Bruce Bochy indicated Thursday.
“We have to check off all the boxes: running the bases, sliding, those things,” Bochy said. “We just want to make 100 percent sure it’s time to put him back there.
“I will say he’s real close. If we wanted to force the issue, we could.”
The outfield of Angel Pagan in center field, Melky Cabrera in left and Nate Schierholtz in right will play, Bochy said.
Tim Lincecum will start on the mound. Others mentioned by Bochy include Aubrey Huff at first base and Mike Fontenot at second.
The Giants have more speed this season. They hope this adds up to a hike in precious runs.
Cabrera, who figures to hit second and play left, is a key to this new emphasis.
Cabrera says he’s ready to run and that, “I’m focused on the opportunity to play every day,” he said.
Cabrera is best known as a consistent performer for the New York Yankees from 2006-09. But he had his best year last season playing in relative obscurity for the Kansas City Royals.
For the Royals, Cabrera had an eye-popping 706 plate appearances (656 at-bats) while hitting .305 with 18 homers and 87 RBIs. He also stole a career-high 20 bases, though he also was caught 10 times.
But any player’s first season for a new team is a challenge.
Consider 2010, Cabrera’s single season for Atlanta. He hit a modest .255 with four homers and 42 RBIs.
“I struggled for Atlanta,” he said. “But that’s OK. But I’m focused now for this team. It’s now 2012. I’m ready to play every day.”
Bochy identified what he thinks “probably” will be his toughest decision in camp.
That will be choosing a backup catcher behind Posey. The candidates are Eli Whiteside and Chris Stewart.
“Both bring different things to the game,” Bochy said, calling Stewart a great thrower” while Whiteside “probably hits a little better” and has worked hard to strengthen his arm. “That’s probably going to be our toughest call as we break camp.”
Stewart will start Saturday.
“We think a lot of both of them,” Bochy said. “Both do a great job of handling the staff.”
There’s an outside chance Hector Sanchez could be in the mix, if the Giants decide they want an extra bat off the bench and decide to go with three catchers.
Brandon Belt knocked in two runs with a pair of run-scoring singles in Thursday’s intrasquad game, which lasted less than an hour. Also, Brandon Crawford tripled.
On the mound, Seth Rosin and Austin Fleet pitched scoreless innings. The defense, though, needs some work.
Jake Dunning gave away two outs when he failed to step on first on a throw from first baseman Brett Pill, then made a poor throw on a roller to the mound by Crawford. That set up a two-run triple by outfielder Gregor Blanco.
“We got to get back to the basics and execute,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “Today was ugly. Look at how the early runs were scored. It showed what mistakes can do. We made them today, and runs scored because of them.”
NOTES: Freddy Sanchez “had a good day today” in fielding practice, Bochy said. The second baseman, who is coming back from a shoulder injury, is expected to debut later in spring training. ... Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson threw well in bullpen sessions Thursday, Bochy said. ... The Giants are off today. Then they have no scheduled day off till March 19.