Joe Mauer's rare visit to AT&T Park with the Minnesota Twins this weekend was supposed to provide Giants catcher Buster Posey a sneak preview of his future at a new, safer position.
Instead, Posey received a powerful endorsement from Mauer to stay behind the plate and resist outside pressures to move. The advice came in the strangest place, too -- with both men at first base during Friday night's game.
"He told me I should keep catching as long as I can," Posey said afterward.
But how did the conversation even come up? Posey broke into a laugh.
"Because he told me you guys (the media) were grilling him about it before the game," he said.
Mauer, baseball's best offensive catcher for the past decade and like Posey an MVP winner, no longer has a C by his name. First base is his new home after a severe concussion from taking a foul ball off his mask ended his 2013 season Aug. 19 and forced him to make the switch in the offseason.
He did so reluctantly.
"If I didn't have the concussion, we wouldn't be talking about it right now," Mauer said. "I caught for 10 years, and I really enjoyed that position. That's what I worked my whole life to be, and I put in a lot of time (to catch). I'm fortunate enough that I could go to another position, but yeah, I miss it. Definitely. But once you make that decision, you have to move on."
Mauer, 31 and now in his 11th year, was blunt in stating he doesn't wish that on Posey -- who is 27 and just in his sixth season -- at this time.
"Play it as long as you can, just enjoy what you're doing," he said. "It's a good situation to have. There will be a day when he can't catch anymore and a day when he can't put the uniform on anymore. But he's a special player, and he'll be able to make that transition and extend his career if he wants to. I'd like to see him catch as long as he can."
Posey said he appreciated the support, and reiterated that he has no plans to give up catching. He said he loves how much it keeps him involved in the game and added, "Why should you have to give up something you love doing?"
He added that the debate about him moving to first or third base "is taking place on the outside, not within the organization." Manager Bruce Bochy, who has often said Posey could easily adjust to an infield spot, reaffirmed that it won't be happening anytime soon.
"We signed him to be our catcher, a very long-term deal that from the financial side, that's what he's paid to do -- be an everyday catcher," Bochy said. "Could he, if we wanted to make a position change? Sure. Buster could handle it, but that's not in the plans right now."
The Posey debate, however, will rage on, and the Twins empathize. Minnesota bench coach Terry Steinbach, the former longtime A's catcher, counseled Mauer on his decision. Steinbach said the pressure to move high-priced offensive talent out from behind the plate is greater than ever.
"From what I know about Buster, I want his bat in there 155-160 times a year," Steinbach said. "I want that bat in that lineup. How do you do that? Not by him being the everyday catcher."
The A's Josh Donaldson, whose career took off when he was moved from catcher to third base, is an example of that. Donaldson is not shy talking about a move that transformed him into a budding star, and how catching might have held him back.
"When you are catching, you're getting beat up," he said. "You are taking foul balls, you're taking bats off the helmet and the arms, and the toll is not just physical but mental as well. The grind is different. Third base isn't what you would call a day at the beach, but it's certainly better than being behind the plate."
Donaldson's teammate John Jaso takes an opposing view despite suffering a foul-tip concussion in July that sidelined him for the final two months and the playoffs. He dreads the thought of giving up catching.
"I don't want to change positions," Jaso said. "I feel comfortable where I'm at. I like controlling the game and that whole aspect of it. I played first base in spring training a couple of years ago, and it felt like a day off."
For Mauer, his transition to first base is going well, but it's still a work in progress. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire noted that Mauer probably leads all first basemen in making trips to the mound to counsel the pitcher.
It's one of the reasons Mauer supports Posey staying at catcher. It gets in the blood. He listened to the debate that he should dump the tools of ignorance for 10 years and steadfastly ignored it.
"They were trying to move me when I was 20 years old," he said. "I had knee surgery my first year, and there were rumblings then. I'm glad I didn't listen to any of them and had a pretty good career behind the plate.
"So if I had any advice to (Posey), I'd say keep doing what he's doing. He's a great catcher and he's had a great career so far. When things happen, then you make adjustments."
Gardenhire said the Twins have always left the position switch question up to Mauer, and that the club was never in a hurry to do it.
"He had to make a decision in his own mind that this was the right thing," Gardenhire said. "Yeah, there was talk about it. But you've got an All-Star catcher, and if you take him out of there, you've got a hole and you've got to fill it. We've been lucky because we were able to get (Kurt) Suzuki, who's been fantastic and made it an easy transition for us. But if we had nobody to step in, we might be feeling the effects because it's such an important position."
Gardenhire acknowledged that Mauer and Posey are very similar in skill and demeanor, and he understands the Giants' situation. He wouldn't offer a recommendation, though.
"Nope, tell Bochy he's got it," he said. "I think he can figure it out. He's pretty good at what he does, and he was a catcher. It all gets down to the mindset of Posey, too. He's got to want to do it."
Staff writers John Hickey and Steve Corkran contributed to this report.
A look at catchers throughout
baseball history who made and resisted the move from catcher.
A look at Buster Posey's starts at catcher and first base over his first six seasons with the
Giants and his yearly offensive production:
Year C 1B AVG. HR RBI
2009 4 0 .118 0 0
2010 75 30 .305 18 67
2011* 41 2 .284 4 21
2012 111 29 .336 24 103
2013 119 16 .294 15 72
2014** 34 6 .272 7 23
* -- Season cut short due to injury; ** -- Through Friday