Why Buster Posey's hot start won't make Giants alter usage plans

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Alex Pavlovic
·4 min read
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Why Posey's hot start won't make Giants alter usage plans originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

With the Giants now set to play a doubleheader Tuesday at Coors Field, it's pretty much a lock that Buster Posey catches one of the first two games of this series and Curt Casali gets the other one. Or if Posey does catch 14 innings today, he'll definitely be off tomorrow. But you could have guessed that even before the skies opened up Monday.

Manager Gabe Kapler has been remarkably consistent with Posey's playing time, starting him two times in every series this season and otherwise not using him at all. Aside from the game in Miami when he got hit on elbow, Posey has gone the distance in all 18 of his appearances, but the days off have been true days off. 

Kapler wants to make sure his veterans get as much rest as possible when they're not in the starting lineup, and that's especially true of Posey, who hasn't pinch-hit yet this year and hasn't taken the first base glove out of the back of his locker. Kapler said this spring that there were no plans to play Posey at first to keep his bat in the lineup. But as he watched Posey return to being one of the league's best hitters in April, he admitted he was having some second thoughts. 

"It has popped in my mind. It's something that I've thought about a little bit," he said last month. "We haven't taken any affirmative steps in that direction right now, but it's definitely something I've thought about."

The idea of occasionally playing Posey at first again hasn't gone past that initial stage. Kapler noted that the Giants have good depth at first -- with starter Brandon Belt and right-handed hitters Wilmer Flores and Darin Ruf -- although that could be tested a bit with Flores now due for more time at second base after the Tommy La Stella injury. Beyond that, though, Kapler has a very valid reason for not asking Posey to play first on his "rest days," even if the bat has been so impactful. 

"The most important thing that I think we're thinking about right now is how do we get Buster Posey to continue to have his body recover and move the way he is moving," Kapler said. "While it's very, very tempting to get him into the lineup as potentially a first baseman on a day game after a night game, it's more important to ensure that he gets adequate recovery, because this performance is ideal. I just want to be very cognizant of not messing with that performance. I'd rather have it two out of every three days than impact the performance negatively by running him out there five or six days a week."

For Kapler, this is a good problem to have. Even before Posey opted out in 2020, the Giants never planned to have him play first, reasoning that at this stage of his career there were others who provided more offensive punch. But Posey has turned back the clock, batting .359/.423/.688 through the first month and a series in San Diego, where he took Yu Darvish deep for his sixth homer. 

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Posey is first in the National League in OPS+ (208), which has caused Kapler to reassess some of his spring ideas about lineup construction and playing time, but so far he has held strong to his belief that keeping Posey fresh for 162 games is far more important than a few extra at-bats in April or May. It helps, Kapler said, that the Giants have had so much success with backup catcher Curt Casali. They're 9-1 in his starts. 

"I had J.T. Realmuto in Philly so I had a sneak preview of what this might be like. It was hard not to put J.T. in the lineup and it's really hard not to put Buster in the lineup," Kapler said. "They're both such great athletes and Buster has been swinging the bat so well. It's definitely reassuring to know that the other catcher that we have to put in the starting lineup is really good behind the plate, has led our pitching staff very well, and we're confident that there are really good at-bats in there, as well, for Casali."

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