Battle to backup Giants catcher Buster Posey ‘tough’ call; Cain makes spring debut in defeat 

click to enlarge As catcher Buster Posey continues to rehab this spring, Chris Stewart, above, is hoping to do enough in the Cactus League to win the backup job. - GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTO
  • Getty Images file photo
  • As catcher Buster Posey continues to rehab this spring, Chris Stewart, above, is hoping to do enough in the Cactus League to win the backup job.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Bruce Bochy’s self-described “toughest” decision this spring would seem, in itself, to point to a rosy picture of the Giants’ upcoming season.

The backup catcher spot is seldom critical, anyway. And this would go double for the Giants, whose best position player is the starting catcher.

There’s that caveat, though, that Buster Posey needs to pass each and every test in his presumed return to
form from season-ending leg and ankle injuries.

So Bochy figures to spend considerable time pondering what is shaping up as a spirited battle between Chris Stewart and Eli Whiteside.

Stewart caught Monday night’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers, where Matt Cain made his Cactus League debut by pitching two scoreless innings in the Giants’ 7-3 loss.

Stewart, 30, who hit .204 in 162 at-bats for the Giants last season, would seem to be the classic good-defense,
no-bat catcher.

“Obviously, I’d like to be an all-around catcher,” Stewart said. “I wish my hitting was a little better. But it is what it is. At the end of the day, I’m trying to take care of the pitcher and get him out of the game with a decent amount of runs scored.

“As long as the team is winning, I could care less what I’m doing at the plate. Obviously, I’m trying to get a hit whenever I can and help the team score runs. If we win 1-0 and I have nothing to do with that one run, that’s fine with me as long as the team wins.”

Stewart concedes that, “There’s always room for improvement, especially with the batting average.”

“My main goal is to be a situational hitter and get runs in from third base when they’re there, bunt a runner over,” he said. “Not necessarily try to put a number on my batting average, but whatever helps get runners over, however I can contribute to getting runs in.”

Stewart got just this sort of chance Monday night.

With one out and Gregor Blanco at third, Stewart hit a line drive to left that fell a few feet foul.

Next, Bochy had him try a suicide squeeze.

Alas, Stewart fouled off the bunt attempt.

Then, with the infield drawn in, Stewart hit a hard smash to Brewers second baseman Cesar Izturis, who couldn’t handle it. Izturis was charged with an error, but Stewart was credited with the sought-after RBI.

“Really, it’s going to be a tough call. ... We think a lot of both of them,” Bochy said, calling Stewart a “great thrower” while Whiteside “probably hits a little better” and has worked hard to strengthen his arm (a problem last season).

As for Cain, the right-hander allowed two hits (a double to Rickie Weeks and a single to Taylor Green), walked one and struck out one in his two scoreless innings.

“The first time you go out, you get the jitters out of the way,” Cain said. “It’s nice to face live hitters when they’re not on your own team.”

The game was unusual in that spring games usually are played in the afternoon, particularly early in the schedule.

“It was definitely different to throw your first one at night,” Cain said. “That atmosphere is always exciting. It’s good to get that going again.”

NOTES: Aubrey Huff hit a solo homer. ... Matt Yourkin pitched three scoreless innings. ... Seth Rosin gave up a solo homer to ex-Giant Travis Ishikawa in the ninth. The Brewers’ Zelous Wheeler hit a two-run homer off Jeremy Affeldt. .... Giants outfielder Justin Christian dropped a routine fly ball with two out and the game tied 3-3 in the seventh. The error allowed two Brewers runs; one baserunner, Jeff Bianchi, seemed so shocked by these developments that he belly-flopped several feet before reaching the plate, though he still managed to score.

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Mike Tulumello

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