Giants back to full strength

Giants catcher and former NL Rookie of the Year Buster Posey takes batting practice. He missed most of last season with a leg injury but is back to full strength.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Scottsdale Stadium went silent not once but twice Sunday.


On San Francisco’s first day of hitters facing pitchers, right-hander Matt Cain fell to the ground after taking a line drive off his left calf. A short while later, slugger Pablo Sandoval got hit beneath his left armpit by a pitch from reliever Jeremy Affeldt and was slow getting up.

Athletic trainer Dave Groeschner hurried to check on both players. Team orthopedist Dr. Ken Akizuki nervously jumped from his comfortable spot in the sun leaning over the dugout rail.

“You always worry about the first couple days,” general manager Brian Sabean said. “That’s a rite of passage that’s necessary but nobody enjoys. Nobody’s got their bearings on the mound or at the plate.”

Once the workout was done, the Giants could exhale. The team is healthy at last, and determined to keep it that way.

Buster Posey is back behind the plate. Brian Wilson is back on the mound. Second baseman Freddy Sanchez is back from shoulder surgery, eager to start turning double plays again. Aubrey Huff, he’s just back in shape.

Back together as a full unit after an injury-plagued 2011 season derailed San Francisco’s hopes of repeating as World Series champions, these rejuvenated Giants expect to challenge the defending NL West champion Diamondbacks for the division title.

“To have those guys back, that’s big,” Huff said. “There’s no doubt last year we were banged up as a team, as a whole. I always go back to you lose six players from your starting lineup from 2010, there are basically holes in your lineup. To be back and healthy it’s a big plus offensively because we didn’t score a lot of runs last year.”

Posey hit live batting practice Sunday and caught Cain with hitters in the batter’s box for the first time since his season-ending collision at the plate last May 25.

That marked another significant step for the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year, who has recovered from three torn ligaments in his left ankle and a broken bone in his lower leg.

“That’s the most excited I’ve been to take live BP, ever,” Posey said. “It was fun. This is all about trying to get your timing right. I guess I didn’t really know what to expect. That’s the first arm I’ve seen since last May.”

While Posey came out of his day great, there were two big scares. About 200 fans watched Cain and Sandoval get hit, but both were unscathed.

“I’m sure they’ll be a little sore tomorrow,” said Bochy, who was on a back field at the time watching Barry Zito and others. “They seem to be doing fine.”

Cain iced his calf as a precaution, while Sandoval said that wasn’t necessary for him.

“Nothing serious,” Sandoval said. “It happens. He’s trying to get his pitches under him.”



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