Former FSU star Posey shines for Giants, has clear path to majors

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Buster Posey's first spring start for the San Francisco Giants on Saturday left a lasting impression.

Posey, a catcher, hit a home run, threw out a base runner and suffered a rash of hecklers like a man who understands he has an abundance of talent and $6.2 million in the bank.

The target of fans sitting behind home plate at an Oakland home game, Posey bore it all without reaction, then tipped his hat to the crowd after hitting a long home run off Russ Springer during the seventh inning in the Giants' 8-4 victory.

"Anti-Buster fans, I guess," Posey said, shrugging it off.

So less than 10 months after leaving Florida State, Posey has two spring home runs, seven RBIs and an apparent clear path to the major leagues after signing for that $6.2 million bonus, the largest in franchise history, as the fifth player selected in the 2008 draft.

"He's done a great job the way he has handled himself behind the plate, swinging the bat, and the way he carries himself. The kid has a lot of confidence," manager Bruce Bochy said.

Posey is playing so well that he already has violated the one rule he wanted to follow this spring.

"It's pretty simple: go about your business and don't be seen too much," he said.

Posey has stood out since the onset of camp. He doubled off Randy Johnson in an intrasquad game and got his first RBI on his second plate appearance of the spring, on a sacrifice fly. He hit his first homer March 14, in his 13th at-bat.

He is batting .421 in limited exposure, 19 at-bats, and has not appeared to be affected by the step up in class. He has only two strikeouts.

Before his home run Saturday, Posey blocked a ball in the dirt, recovered it after it bounced away, and threw out Jason Giambi attempting to advance to third base.

"He did a great job, good recovery to throw a guy out at third. He did a good job of handling (Giants starter Kevin) Pucetas and keeping us in the game," Bochy said.

Posey said he has benefited from his first big league exposure.

"I've enjoyed it. I feel that I've learned a lot. Each day, I'm trying to pick up little things and watch things and see how people go about their business," Posey said.

Sometime in the not-too-distant future, Posey will be returned to the minor league camp and learn his 2009 assignment, probably to Class A San Jose, where he was promoted for the playoffs last season.

"He needs to get at-bats. We're not going to put a target date on him right now, but we'll let him play every day," Bochy said.

"We have Bengie (Molina) here, and we're in good hands there. But we're excited about where he's at and what he's done this spring."

Molina's three-year, $16 million contract worth $6 million this season expires at the end of the year, and his future with the Giants appears to be intertwined with Posey's.

For now, Posey will soak up his experience, which includes his initial foray into pitch-calling. He played shortstop as a freshman at Florida State before volunteering to catch to fill a team void in 2007. He squatted behind the plate his final two seasons and received the Johnny Bench Award as college baseball's best catcher.

He also was named the Golden Spikes winner as the best player in college baseball when he led the NCAA in six offensive categories, including batting average (.493), RBIs (93) and slugging percentage (.879).

"I think sometimes all of us are guilty of making it more complicated that what it really is," Posey said of calling pitches. "I think it is a matter of staying on the same page with your pitcher and pitching to his strengths. I don't think we need to make it rocket science."

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