Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 3/11/12
And on the ninth day (of the exhibition season), the San Francisco Giants exhaled. The season may not start for a few weeks. The exhibition game stats may soon be forgotten. But if the Giants are to rebound from last year's disappointment and return to the postseason or if they hope to reclaim the world championship they won in 2010 this will be a weekend that the Giants will remember. Consider: --Catchercleanup hitter Buster Posey returned to the field for the first time in 289 days with a two-inning, one-at-bat effort Friday, and the left leg fractured in last May's home-plate collision with Scott Cousins of the Marlins felt so good that Posey was back in the lineup for four innings Sunday. --Second baseman Freddy Sanchez made his first appearance in nine months, serving as the DH Friday and Saturday. He showed he had recovered enough from the right labrum tear that sidelined him last June that he expects to get time in the field Wednesday or Thursday. --Closer Brian Wilson, limited to two appearances after Aug. 15 last season because of a right elbow strain, needed only nine pitches to get through his first inning of work this spring, and proclaimed all's well in his late-inning world. --And starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong, out with a strained back, was sharp enough in a bullpen session that manager Bruce Bochy said he is confident Vogelsong will be ready to open the season in the rotation. The Giants could take advantage of an early-season off-day to delay Vogelsong's regular-season debut to April 15 against Pittsburgh at AT&T Park. "Huge weekend," Bochy said. "All these things happening at the same time, it gives a life, and the neat thing is to see how the fans reacted. They appreciate these guys." Appreciate? Posey was given a standing ovation by a sellout crowd at Scottsdale Stadium when he merely walked out to the bullpen to warm up Matt Cain on Friday, and Wilson was greeted with an ovation from Sunday's sellout crowd when he journeyed to the mound in the fourth inning. "I was running around during batting practice getting them pumped up," Wilson said. "I would go down the left field line and say, 'Who's excited to see me pitching today?' Our fans know baseball, and I know they want to see me do well. That makes me feel good." No potential contender came to spring training with more medical questions to be answered than did the Giants, but there are other teams with key players on the mend. --Arizona lost shortstop Stephen Drew when he broke his right ankle sliding into home plate July 20. He has flexibility in the ankle, but he most likely will open the season on the disabled list. "The doctor said it was going to be a one-year process, and now I'm at month seven," he admitted. Arizona was encouraged by word that right-handed starter Josh Collmeter (back stiffness) felt strong in a batting practice session Sunday and could start Wednesday. --The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim hit a free-agent bonanza with the offseason signings of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, and finally received positive feedback on Kendrys Morales, who has been out since May 29, 2010, when he broke his left ankle during a home run celebration at home plate. Morales, who had to undergo a second surgery last May, ran bases for the first time on Sunday and could be in the lineup within a week. Angels officials say he could be the season-opening DH if he gets 30 at-bats this spring. Morales hit .306 with 34 home runs and 108 RBI in 2009. --Milwaukee will open the season with outfielder Corey Hart recovering from Tuesday's surgery to remove torn cartilage from his right knee. But the Brewers were encouraged that four days after surgery, he was off crutches. --St. Louis announced Sunday that right-hander Chris Carpenter's neck stiffness is not related to a nerve problem that has bothered him. Adam Wainwright, meanwhile, returned from a 53-week hiatus because of reconstructive right-elbow surgery with two solid innings Friday. He was strong enough that he will be back on three days' rest Tuesday. --Miami changed its name, prepared for the move to its new park, and signed free agent left-hander Mark Buehrle and shortstop Jose Reyes over the winter. The Marlins then watched as Josh Johnson opened his spring showing no lingering problems from the right-shoulder inflammation that cut short his 2011 season. Johnson went 2 13 innings Saturday, hitting 95 miles per hour on the radar guns. --Philadelphia had a setback with first baseman Ryan Howards' return from a torn Achilles tendon. He developed an infection in the area of the surgery and was sidelined on Feb. 25. The Giants, however, have more at stake than any team. Posey, alone, is probably more important to the Giants than any single player is to any other contender. He's not only the catcher, but he's also the leadoff hitter. And with his impact in the final four months of 2010, he won over the veterans. "I couldn't have asked for a better (situation)," Wilson said of having Posey behind the plate Sunday. "It's been a long time since I have thrown to him. It was nice to have the reunion and good to have the results. . . . We asked him as a rookie to be a leader and to handle a remarkable pitching staff, and he did all that." And Posey made his impact felt Sunday when he caught Vinnie Catricala attempting to steal second base. It ended the fourth inning, and the day's work for Posey as well as Wilson. "He is one of our core players," Bochy said. "We know what he means to our lineup and what he means behind the plate. . . . But nobody was more excited about him being back than Buster was." Bochy had said Wilson had a limit of 25 pitches prior to Sunday's game. Wilson had 16 pitches left over when he departed Sunday's game. No big deal, Wilson said. "It's not like you get the same feel if you go down to the bullpen and throw to be throwing," he said. Besides, Wilson said, the concern about his arm has been overblown. "I tried to tell everybody last September it wasn't a big deal," he said. "But people want to see action rather than be told, so that's what I am going to do. We'll see what happens the next nine games. Then Opening Day. Then the All-Star Break, and then the playoffs." What the Giants saw this weekend, however, was enough to get the fans on their feet, and put a smile on Bochy's face.
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