Two players who sometimes make up the same battery, catcher Buster Posey and pitcher Barry Zito, are the biggest question marks as the Giants’ pitchers and catchers start spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The question with Posey is whether he can be the same player who won NL Rookie of the Year honors in 2010 before being sidelined by a horrendous collision at home plate on May 25. After his broken bones healed, Posey started a long rehabilitation process.
After a Sunday workout in the desert, Posey assured the media that he’d be fine, and manager Bruce Bochy said the catcher will be under orders not to block the plate this year. But we won’t know for sure about Posey until the Giants’ opener April 6, if then.
If Posey were playing another position, it wouldn’t be such a difficult question to answer, but catcher is the single defensive position that puts the most strain on even a healthy body, let alone one recovering from a terrible injury. Just ask Ray Fosse. A rising star until he was run over by Pete Rose at home plate in a 1970 All-Star Game, Fosse was never quite the same player again, though he played 12 years, including two years for the A’s on World Series champions.
Though some observers think Posey should be shifted to first base, neither he nor the Giants want it.
Posey said he enjoys being the catcher, a position he only started playing in college after being an infielder before, because he likes being in the center of the action, working with the excellent Giants pitching staff. His involvement at first base would be considerably less.
From the Giants’ standpoint, he would be substantially less valuable as a first baseman. Catcher is one of three defensive positions — shortstop and center field are the other — where teams often sacrifice offense for great defense. To have a catcher who is excellent defensively, with an arm strong enough to deter potential base stealers, who can also be a middle-of-the-lineup hitter is a great advantage.
Conversely, Posey’s contributions as a first baseman would be average, though he’s a .300 hitter who will probably hit about 25 home runs a year. First base is a power position, which Giants fans may not understand because the team hasn’t had a power hitter there since Will Clark was in his
The only question with Zito is whether he can even reach the minimum standard required for a No. 5 pitcher.
The Zito signing was a huge mistake. He’d been trending downward since his Cy Young season in 2002, but he got what was then the biggest free-agent contract for a pitcher.
He’s never come close to deserving that, with a cumulative record of 43-61 with an ERA of 4.55 as a Giant.
This year, he’s announced that he’s going to change his form. Again. Unfortunately, he can’t change a mediocre fastball and uncertain control.
Zito has two years left on that contract, with a $7 million buyout for 2014. If he doesn’t show he can be the fifth starter, he’ll be gone sooner rather than later, and not a moment too
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.