Buster Posey progressing with rehab, but says ankle isn’t yet 100 percent

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Buster Posey still expects to be ready for the start of the season, but he told Rael Enteen of CSNBayArea.com during Giants’ media day yesterday that his surgically-repaired left ankle is “not 100 percent yet.”

“The games will be a whole new level and I’m excited to see how [my ankle] responds,” Posey said Friday. “I think it will respond well but it’s a long season, whether you’re 100 percent healthy or not…I’m happy with where I am and I’m optimistic for having a good, healthy season.”

Posey is currently working his way back from three torn ligaments in his left ankle and a fractured leg suffered in a nasty home plate collision with Marlins’ outfielder Scott Cousins last May. While the 24-year-old still deals with some soreness in the mornings, the good news is that he said the ankle feels good from the crouch position.

On a related note, Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News reports that Giants manager Bruce Bochy and general manager Brian Sabean are already talking about playing Posey at first base once a week, if not more, in order to keep his bat in the lineup and lessen his workload behind the plate.

“The work’s been done,” Sabean said. “(Trainer Dave) Groeschner has been pleased with where they are. But we’ll be very conscious and diligent about what his schedule will be gamewise. At the finish line is to get him ready to be the opening-day catcher and then to figure from there how many games he can catch.

“But that will evolve as we see the workload and what that ankle can tolerate. Because everything he does is weight bearing, whether it’s shifting or throwing or blocking.”

Posey started 31 games at first base during his rookie season in 2010, mostly due to the presence of Bengie Molina, and made two starts there prior to last year’s season-ending injury. If the Giants truly intend to play him at first base at least once a week, one wonders whether Brandon Belt will be Fresno-bound to begin the season.

More position players have pitched this year than ever

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Yesterday, in Milwaukee, utilityman Hernan Perez pitched two scoreless innings, and backup catcher Erik Kratz pitched one himself, mopping up in a blowout loss to the Dodgers. In doing so they became the 31st and 32nd position players to pitch this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the most position players who have taken the mound in a season in the Expansion Era, which began in 1961. Presumably far fewer ever did so when the league had only 16 teams.

It’s pretty remarkable to set that record now, in this age of 13 and sometimes 14-man pitching staffs. That’s especially true when teams shuttle guys back and forth from the minors more often than they ever have before and when, due to the shortened, 10-day disabled list, it’s easier to give guys breaks because of “injuries” than it ever has been.

Pitcher usage is driving this, however. While teams carry far more relievers than they ever have before, they actually carry far fewer swingmen or mopup men who are capable of throwing multiple innings in a blowout to save other pitchers’ arms. Rather, teams focus on max-effort, high-velocity relievers who go one or two innings tops, thus requiring catchers and utility guys to help do the mopping that actual pitchers used to do.

I don’t know if that’s a bad thing necessarily — some of these backup catchers throw harder than a lot of pitchers did 30 years ago and it’s always kind of fun to see a position player pitch — but it is yet another way the game has changed due to a focus on specialization and velocity when it comes to pitchers.