Star Giants catcher Buster Posey likely out for year

SAN FRANCISCO — Giants star catcher Buster Posey is likely out for the season with a fractured bone in his lower left leg suffered when Florida’s Scott Cousins crashed into him at home plate.

The Giants announced Thursday that Posey was placed on the disabled list with the injury, a night after he was crushed by Cousins while trying to block the winning run in the 12th inning against the Marlins. He also was scheduled to have an MRI.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said the team was still in shock over the loss. He called on Major League Baseball to review the long-standing rule on collisions at the plate, which are as much a part of baseball tradition as peanuts and Cracker Jacks.

“It’s part of baseball, I understand that, guys running into catchers. Being a catcher, I’ve been in a few of them. You’re in harm’s way there,” Bochy said. “I think we do need to consider changing the rules here a little bit because the catcher is so vulnerable and there’s so many who have gotten hurt. And not just a little bit, had their careers ended or shortened. And here’s a guy who’s very popular in baseball. Fans want to see him play.

“Now he’s out for a while.”

Posey has been San Francisco’s cleanup hitter this season, a team leader in the clubhouse and key cog behind the plate for one of baseball’s best rotations. The reigning NL Rookie of the Year was batting .284 with four home runs and 21 RBIs, just finding his groove in the midst of a 13-game hitting streak to move the Giants into first place in the NL West.

“It’s a tough blow. You just don’t replace a guy like Buster Posey,” Bochy said. “He was a big reason we won the World Series last year. It’s rare to have a catcher who’s also your cleanup hitter. That’s Johnny Bench stuff.”

The loss of Posey will be an enormous hurdle for the Giants to overcome if they want to repeat as champs.

Backup Eli Whiteside of New Albany will be Posey’s immediate replacement. The team also put infielder Mike Fontenot (left groin strain) and utility man Darren Ford (left ankle sprain) on the 15-day disabled list.

Slugger Brandon Belt and catcher Chris Stewart were recalled from Triple-A Fresno, and infielder Brandon Crawford was called up from Single-A San Jose.

“I’m not going to try and be Buster Posey,” Whiteside said. “That’s our cleanup hitter and one of the best hitters in baseball. I’ll do my best and play my game, but I’m not going to try to be Buster Posey.”

All this came after San Francisco’s spirited four-run rally in the ninth to force extra innings a night earlier.

The play started when Emilio Bonifacio hit a shallow fly ball to right-center off Guillermo Mota for the second out in the 12th inning. Cousins tagged from third base on the sacrifice fly, beating the throw from Nate Schierholtz and lowering his shoulder to slam into Posey for a clean hit on the catcher. Cousins was safe as Posey never could quite corral the ball, giving Florida a 7-6 victory.

Cousins, who went to the University San Francisco, lives in the Bay Area and had almost a dozen friends and family in attendance, apologized repeatedly for injuring Posey. But he said he believes — as most Giants also reiterated — that he made a clean baseball play.

Cousins was even more remorseful when he heard the severity of the injury before the series finale, saying he had to look away from the replay that was shown repeatedly at the team’s hotel. He said he tried calling Posey twice overnight and sent his condolences to the Giants clubhouse.

“The last thing I wanted to do was break a guy’s leg,” he said, tears welling up in his eyes.

The moment was as stunning as any San Francisco has seen this season.

Posey laid in the dirt around home plate, dazed, writhing in pain and curling up in a ball. After several minutes of stunned silence at AT&T Park, fans began chanting “Posey! Posey!” as he was helped off the field by two team trainers holding his left leg.

Posey had already taken several hard foul tips off his mask and legs this season, even leaving one game for precautionary reasons to make sure he didn’t have a concussion. Some observers have argued a slugger of his caliber shouldn’t be behind the plate, where hits can be routine, and this injury surely won’t do much to quiet that sentiment.

Posey himself has always shaken off those remarks, saying he was born to play catcher and loves his position.

Bochy shook off questions that Posey should switch to another position — he played some first base last year — in the future, saying it’s too early to be talking about such plans.

“Right now,” Bochy said, “We’re just trying to get over the shock of this a little.”

Antonio Gonzalez/The Associated Press