THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
DENVER — Buster Posey understands all the fuss over his healing left leg.
He really does, even if he’s asked the same questions again and again.
And when the San Francisco Giants catcher takes a day off — even a scheduled one such as Monday against Colorado — he realizes there’s bound to be more scrutiny.
Everything’s fine with the leg, right? No setbacks with the ankle, correct?
That’s simply the way it’s going to be all season long if Posey sits out, plays first base instead of catch or is replaced late in a contest.
But the leg is indeed doing just fine. Maybe even a little better than Posey anticipated at this point.
Late last May, Posey was out for the year when he broke a bone in his left leg and tore three ankle ligaments on a horrific collision at the plate with the Marlins’ Scott Cousins.
So far this season, Posey has hardly given the leg a second thought. Well, besides a few more pregame stretches to loosen it up and icing the ankle afterward, something he hardly ever used to do.
"I’m really happy with the way my ankle feels," said Posey, whose team has two more games against the Rockies before their home opener Friday against Pittsburgh. "Everything is all go."
Posey’s hitting .333 through three games and launched a homer off Arizona’s Josh Collmenter over the weekend. Still, there’s one more test that’s waiting out there for him: The close play at the plate.
Posey got a small taste in spring training against the Texas Rangers during an exhibition game. In that March contest, Posey admitted that he might have stepped more away from the plate than in the past and put a swipe tag on Mitch Moreland that missed.
Next time, in a game that really counts, there won’t be any hesitation. There’s simply no time to think about what might happen.
"When it comes down to it, you’ve got to let your instincts take over," Posey said. "The main thing was to make sure I was prepared this spring with my positioning."
Being without Posey last season certainly hurt the Giants. He was an important piece during their run to a World Series title in 2010, as much for his ability to handle the pitching staff as to produce clutch hits.
Having him back in the lineup is a boon for aces Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.
To ensure the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year doesn’t wear down, Giants manager Bruce Bochy has a definitive plan in mind.
Namely, days off whenever Posey needs them and the occasional start at first base to cut down on the constant rigours of catching.
"We check on him every game, to see how he’s doing," Bochy said. "I don’t know if we need to do that anymore. He feels fine.
"But we have a pretty good idea how we’re going to run this. As we get into it, no days off for two weeks, let’s say, he’s going to mix in a game at first. He still needs a day off; that’s not a day off."
The Giants also have a reliable backup in Hector Sanchez, who has rapidly risen through the team’s minor-league system to make his first Opening Day roster this season.
Last year, Sanchez split time between Single-A San Jose and Triple-A Fresno, hitting a combined .285 with 12 homers and 84 RBIs. After a late call-up with San Francisco, Sanchez spent the winter honing his swing in the Venezuelan winter league, where he had the second-best average (.339) and finished fourth in RBIs (39).
And Bochy won’t hesitate to put Sanchez in the lineup.
"He can handle the bat. He showed that last year, both in Fresno and when we called him up," Bochy said. "He has a good idea of what he’s doing up there."
Bochy is all about bringing along his younger players at a speed they can handle. He knows when hold back.
"We’ve got the season ahead of us," he said. "I don’t anybody putting too much pressure on themselves too early."