So many questions await Buster Posey this spring. They hover in the air like a series of foul pops, subject to the whims of wind and spin.
Will his repaired left ankle respond when he hops out of his crouch to throw? How will it feel when he wakes up the following day? Will his timing at the plate be an issue after the longest layoff of his baseball life?
Will he be the ebullient rookie of the year who led the Giants to a World Series title in 2010? Or will Posey's career be more about concessions than celebrations?
"I guess questions like these are just hard to answer without playing, you know?" he said, squinting a bit. "Without being back in the action."
It's the thought of being back in action that helps Posey replace the scowl of uncertainty with that familiar visage of confidence. On the eve of the Giants' annual FanFest, as the players gathered for the first time since September, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Brian Wilson all remarked that Posey struck them as poised and able.
"He's really pumped to get out there," Lincecum said. "I feel he's had that itch longer than anybody."
Said Cain: "To see the look on his face, it's exciting for all of us. To know we'll go to spring training and be able to throw to him and get back to that, it's a big, big confidence factor for the staff."
The Giants need Posey for more than his leadership or his ability behind the plate. Sure, they missed those attributes after he tore three ankle ligaments and fractured his leg in a home-plate collision May 25. But their worst-in-the-majors offense missed his cleanup-hitting presence most of all.
That's why manager Bruce Bochy and general manager Brian Sabean already are talking about playing Posey at first base at least once a week, and possibly more, to keep his bat in the lineup. They don't expect to have a gauge on his durability as a catcher until the end of the spring.
"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 acknowledged he is not 100 percent and that the ankle is stiff when he rolls out of bed. At the same time, he said, all his rehab goals have been met or exceeded. He was encouraged by the way he felt while hitting on the field in Arizona and blocking balls when he tried a few drills in November.
He is confident. But he is not foolish. There is so much uncertainty as he moves forward, knowing there are sure to be adjustments along the way.
"I try my best not to think about it," he said. "The main thing for me is I'm going to enjoy playing. I'm excited to be around the guys again and excited just to have the opportunity to play again. I saw how quickly it can be taken away, so I'm going to enjoy the game as much as I can."
Posey still hasn't spoken with Scott Cousins, the Marlins baserunner who applied the heat-seeking hit in the 12th inning May 25 at AT&T Park. Posey said he doesn't want to dwell on events that cannot be undone.
As the baseball gods arranged it, though, the Giants will be somewhere significant on the one-year anniversary of the controversial play: In Miami to play the Marlins at their new stadium.
"Oh yeah? Huh," said Posey, breaking rhythm from signing a stack of bats. "I guess, what are the odds of that happening? Three out of 162?"
He paused in thought for a moment.
"I guess it'd be weirder if they were here, right?" he said, solemnly.
Posey said he hopes he is in midseason form by then. This spring, to help get his timing back, he'll stand in the box and track pitches while his teammates throw off a mound. He'll crank up the batting-practice machine a little higher in the cage, too.
"I'm optimistic my timing will come back pretty quickly," he said.
He isn't sure if he'll need to adjust his mechanics behind the plate. But he's less concerned with how his ankle will react in the moment than how it'll bounce back the following day.
"That's going to be the bigger question more than any specific move I make or can't make," he said.
The rest is all wind and spin, bone and sinew.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun