Buster Posey told not to block plate

After a violent collision at home plate ended Buster Posey's season in May last year, San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy has instructed his All-Star catcher to no longer block home plate when a player is trying to score.

"I'll take this out of Buster's hands," Bochy told reporters Sunday as the Giants opened spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz. "As a manager, that's my job. I certainly don't want people to think he's backing off on his own. It's something we'll work on with him this spring."

Bochy, a former major league catcher himself, explained there are ways to make the tag at home plate without putting your body in harm's way.

"I've already talked to Buster about this. There are ways to make the tag without putting yourself in jeopardy,'' Bochy said, according to USA Today. "I don't want him to block the plate right now."

Posey, the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year, made his highly anticipated return to the field Sunday in a formal setting after his season-ending leg injury last year. He tore three ligaments in his left ankle and broke a bone in his lower leg in a frightening home plate collision with the Marlins' Scott Cousins on May 25.

Through his entire ordeal, Posey has been able to reflect on his baseball career.

Yes, he wants to keep catching for years to come, though changing positions did cross his mind a few times. He refuses to get involved in speaking out about the need for any rules changes when it comes to making contact with the catcher (Bochy is handling that campaign). Posey wants to do everything he can to stay in the lineup as a regular.

"I think it's just a greater appreciation for doing what I do, just enjoying this, being out here today catching a couple of 'pens and maybe some of the not-so-glamorous stuff of a catcher's job," he said. "Enjoying that stuff a little bit more and just knowing that it can be gone quick."

The Giants have a plan in place to keep Posey from overdoing it now -- and he understands that. He will do all he can to avoid another injury that could derail his plan and force him to become a full-time first baseman.

It would mean a lot to Posey to play in the first Cactus League game March 3 against defending NL West champion Arizona, and Bochy believes that's possible. For a while, Bochy will check in with the medical staff after each of Posey's games in which he catches five or six innings.

Posey won't catch bullpens Monday but is expected to participate in other baseball activities.

"That's our decision, not his," Bochy said.

Giants general manager Brian Sabean watched Posey during the fall as he began catching again.

"He thinks everything is fine," Sabean said. "He's ready to get out here. It'll be us holding him back."

These days, Posey said he consciously thinks about picking up his 6-month-old twins -- daughter Addison and son Lee -- by squatting down first as to not aggravate anything. It's all of these little things he has learned through what became a painful blow to the Giants, who missed the playoffs a year after winning the World Series.

Posey has distanced himself from the collision -- though he has watched it multiple times -- and the emotional aftermath. Cousins has expressed how sorry he is the injury happened but called it an aggressive baseball play.

Posey said Sunday he accepts that Cousins does care, even if they haven't spoken despite efforts by the Marlins outfielder.

"The biggest thing for me back then and now is looking forward and being positive and trying to get ready for another season," Posey said.

Posey has regained his rhythm at the plate in a hurry. Even when he first started hitting last fall after about five months off, the swing came back fairly quickly.

"I'm blessed in a sense. I enjoy this game," he said.

Posey's presence was missed every day last year.

In 2010, he wasn't even called up from Triple-A Fresno until late May but still batted .305 with 18 home runs and 67 RBIs in 108 games to help the Giants capture their first NL West crown since 2003.

"I know they're glad to have him back," Bochy said. "He's very popular in the clubhouse and they know how long a road he had to endure in his rehab. That's a tough road. The talent he brings makes us a better club."

Not to mention all the other intangibles.

"Buster's the core of this team just because he's on both sides, offense and defense. He's our leader," left-hander Barry Zito said. "It's good for the morale of the team. We feel like we're a full unit again."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.