SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Pitchers and catchers report first, and on that initial day on the field, most of the attention is usually on the large collection of starters and relievers taking turns on the bullpen mounds.
But when the Giants stroll out of the clubhouse shortly after 10 a.m. on Wednesday, all eyes may be on the men getting ready to strap their gear on. Buster Posey has been running this drill for a decade, but for the second time in his career he’s coming off a major injury, and the Giants plan to ease him in.
Joey Bart, last year’s top pick, will be with big leaguers for the first time. In between those two is a large and varied group battling to back up Posey.
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It’s a wide open race, mostly because of who won’t be there Wednesday morning. The Giants did not sign Nick Hundley to a third straight big league contract, and he inked a deal with the A’s on Monday. As Posey leads a contingent at Scottsdale Stadium, Hundley, his trusted backup the last two years and a Willie Mac Award winner in 2017, will be 20 minutes away in Mesa.
“I was disappointed,” Posey admitted Tuesday when asked about the Giants not bringing Hundley back. “Nick is one of my all-time favorite teammates and one of my best friends. I think that he brings so much on a daily basis. We would have loved to have him back, for sure.”
Giants officials have not spoken publicly since Hundley signed elsewhere, but it’s not hard to connect dots. Farhan Zaidi values flexibility on the field — Hundley only plays catcher — but also off of it. Aside from Aramis Garcia, the rest of the catchers in big league camp are here on minor league deals, so none are locked in as the backup on Day 1. Garcia has minor league options remaining, so he can be moved back and forth from the majors to Triple-A during the season if the Giants are so inclined.
Garcia is the only catcher other than Posey on the 40-man roster, although that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the current frontrunner. Cameron Rupp, 30, brings power from the right side. If Stephen Vogt can get fully healthy, his proven left-handed bat could give him an edge. Posey said Tuesday that he’s always “been a fan of him, too.”
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Rene Rivera, another well-traveled veteran, will get attention, in part because he walked into camp with platinum hair and in part because the Giants know him well. The 35-year-old has gotten some big hits off the Giants.
“The good thing is he’s not going to beat us like he normally does,” Posey said. “It seems like he always destroys us.”
The Giants still may add catching depth, but already, they have put together an interesting group. As Posey gets healthy and Bart soaks it all in, the rest will take part in one of the better competitions in camp.