Giants & A’s

Matt Kawahara, Bay Area baseball beat writer

Giants' Susac welcomes advice from Posey

03/07/2013 12:00 AM

03/07/2013 5:47 PM

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – One benefit of being a young catcher in the Giants' spring training camp: When the incumbent gives you pointers, you can be pretty confident in the source.

Andrew Susac, a graduate of Jesuit High School and Oregon State drafted by the Giants in 2011, was hitting off a tee with the catchers early this spring when Buster Posey, the reigning National League MVP and batting champion, pulled him aside.

Posey said he noticed Susac was finishing his swings with one hand. On outside pitches, it would cause Susac to contact the ball a little out in front and pull grounders to the left side. Posey suggested a minor experiment.

"He said, 'Hey, man, I'm having the same problem (with the) outside pitch. Try finishing with two hands,' " Susac said. " 'Finishing with one hand, it's acting as a cheating mechanism almost to get your hands out there and that's why you're rolling over the ball.'

"Just little advice like that helps a lot."

Susac, who turns 23 on March 22, is soaking in as much as possible this spring entering his second full season in the Giants' system, particularly after a 2012 season he pointedly described as "horrible" last week.

"I mean, not horrible," he continued, "but I don't think last season reflected who I am as a player."

The Giants thought enough of Susac to draft him in the second round. He spent last season at High-A San Jose, where he struggled at the plate – batting .216 as late as July 21 – before a late surge in which he hit .306 over his final 31 games.

Susac admits he "never had struggles like I had last year" and that he let it wear on him. The improvements, he said, started to come after he adopted a more strict daily routine.

He began waking up at 9 a.m., about two hours earlier, eating better and getting to the park earlier. He also began a pregame stretching regimen and limited the number of swings he took in the batting cage. Before going out to play, he'd watch TV on his iPad to clear his mind or a brief video of his good at-bats to remind himself what worked.

"I'd never thought of myself as a mental guy, but like I said, I'd never dealt with any adversity," Susac said. "I'd never had real big-time struggles. When you go through those things, you realize the bigger picture. That's why routine is so big."

He's enjoying his second big-league camp as a nonroster invitee. Playing time is scarce – he has a single and a double in five Cactus League at-bats – but he has caught bullpen sessions for many of the Giants' pitchers.

"He's a young guy learning," said bullpen catcher Bill Hayes, who works with the catchers. "There's definitely potential there. He seems like an incredible athlete. He's flexible. Things sometimes go a little quick for him with movement (on pitches)."

For example, Hayes said, after Susac caught Giants reliever Santiago Casilla, who throws in the mid-90s with late movement, he showed Hayes a bruise on one of the middle fingers of his catching hand from a pitch he hadn't been able to catch with the pocket of his glove.

"There's a few things he needs to do just to quiet down the way he receives the ball," Hayes said. "But he's got good hands. He's got an above-average arm. All things said, that just takes games played."

A positive sign, Posey said, is that "he's a guy that's willing to make adjustments and change things if he feels it's got to change to make him better. I think if you have that mindset, you're going to continue to get better."

Of course, the flip side of having the reigning MVP at your position is that the other catchers are, as Hayes said, "fighting for second place."

Susac said it's not something he thinks about.

"If you worry about that and don't do well, then you're never going to make it," he said. "Then you're just stuck. If you do well, there will be a spot that opens up for you."

Call The Bee's Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015.

About This Blog

Matt Kawahara has covered baseball for The Sacramento Bee for three years. Kawahara, a McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley graduate, joined The Bee in 2010. Before joining Sports, he was a general assignment news reporter. Reach Kawahara at Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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