SCOTTSDALE — Trevor Brown made the responsible decision when he got drafted, putting a down payment on a home. He promised himself that the slick new car would be purchased only after he reached the big leagues — and that day came sooner than expected.
Brown was a surprise call-up last September as the Giants dealt with a flood of injuries, including two season-ending ones to Buster Posey’s backups. He had hoped all along that this spring would be his first in big league camp, and that September stint guaranteed it, along with a spot on the 40-man roster and a shot at winning an opening day job. Andrew Susac is the heavy favorite to back up Posey, but manager Bruce Bochy said he intends on letting his two young catchers compete for the job.
“I’m just going to keep a positive mindset, because you never know what can happen,” Brown said. “You want to show them what you can do.”
Regardless of how the competition plays out, this season will be a huge one for Brown, who turned 24 in November. He remains a relative newcomer to catching, having played all over the infield while playing at UCLA. Brown offers some extra intrigue as a backup because he’s played second base in the past and is athletic enough to handle third or the outfield — where he played a bit in college — in a pinch. In the National League that versatility could be a huge boost, but Bochy wants Brown focusing on being a backstop for now.
“I don’t think you’ll see (him move around this spring) as much as you will down the road,” Bochy said. “I want him focusing on catching. He hasn’t caught a lot.”
Brown has infield and outfield gloves in his locker but Bochy said he'll be tasked with just a little bit of extra work at first base and none at second, where he has made 96 starts in the minors. Brown has only 154 starts behind the plate in the minors, but he’s proven to be a quick learner. Veterans raved about Brown’s work when he caught 13 games in September and he’s speeding up the learning process this spring by catching as many different big leaguers as he can.
“When I got called up last year, I had caught nobody,” he said. “My goal is to catch all of these guys at least once.”
The development will be helped by the fact that Brown gets to follow Buster Posey’s lead for a month and a half.
“That’s going to be huge,” he said. “Those three weeks last year, I talked to Buster all the time and Bochy, and I’ve got another six weeks of that. I get to practice with him more, and you get more time to talk because you’re not preparing for games. The biggest thing for me is talking about pitch-calling and strategies on attacking hitters.”
Bochy hasn’t ruled out breaking camp with three catchers, but Brown and Susac are likely battling for just one job. Wherever he ends up, Brown will continue to develop in style. Thanks to that September call-up, his old car got traded in for a Lexus RC.
HEALTH UPDATES: Bochy said Denard Span (hip) and Joe Panik (back) are doing fine and will be ready when the first Cactus League game rolls around March 2, but "I don't know if I'm going to play them the first game." The staff is going to be very aggressive about giving guys extra time off this spring. For now, though, all is good. "There have been no hiccups at this point, which is good news," Bochy said. The one small exception has been Sergio Romo, who is getting the "slow-play" treatment, but he's on the schedule to throw a bullpen session Friday.
NEW FACE: Hak-Ju Lee, a 25-year-old non-roster invitee, checked into camp today. Bochy said he'll see time at both middle infield spots. Once considered Tampa Bay's (and before that the Cubs') shortstop of the future, Lee's career was stalled by Tommy John surgery and a major knee injury. He hasn't had a healthy, productive season since about 2011, when he was in Single-A, but the Giants will take a look and see if he can unseat a current backup option.
They are clearly not locked into their infield, having spoken to Jimmy Rollins about a utility role. The main takeaway from that pursuit is that -- despite being a tax team -- the Giants will have the flexibility to add a veteran infielder this summer if they need the help.
FAMILIAR FACE: There's been a lot of talk about Tim Lincecum's absence, and quite a few jokes about life After Affeldt, but this is a reminder than another key figure -- Ryan Vogelsong -- in franchise history is also elsewhere.
ICYMI: Connor Gillaspie opened up yesterday about his failed first stint with the Giants.
THE COMMISH: Rob Manfred took questions from the media at an event a few miles from Scottsdale Stadium. Here are some of the highlights: Manfred wants an international draft and that'll be discussed for the next CBA ... He is in favor of expanding to 32 teams, but there's no timetable for that to happen ... He said that he's hopeful that in-market streaming is locked into place all over the league by opening day; presumably, that would mean you could stream Giants games like you currently can with the Warriors.