Buster Posey is ready to slip back into his Giants uniform and play ball in 2021.
“I do plan to be playing,” Posey told The Chronicle on Tuesday in one of his first interviews since he opted out of the shortened 2020 season five months ago.
“There was never a thought I wouldn’t unless something new or drastic happened with the pandemic.”
Moreover, Posey said he is leaning toward playing beyond 2021, the final guaranteed season of the nine-year, $163 million contract he signed days before the 2013 season, and four months after he won his lone National League MVP award.
The Giants hold a $22 million option for 2022.
Gabe Kapler can’t wait.
The second-year manager said in a Zoom with reporters Tuesday that Posey is a “surefire lock” to be on the Opening Day roster and get the majority of games behind the plate in 2021, a significant statement, given the potential development of Joey Bart, who made his big-league debut this season but might open next season in the minors.
Kapler said Posey will be “our primary catcher, not just a voice between the lines. We’re going to use his brains and his body to the best of his abilities.”
A bigger body, it seems.
Kapler has seen Posey at Oracle Park since the 2020 season ended and said the 33-year-old has added muscle to a frame that has been more lithe than ripped.
“He’s looking agile and strong and fresh,” Kapler said. “I think the time off gave him an opportunity to reassess where his body was and make some physical-conditioning improvements.”
Posey said by phone he already has begun swinging “at full tilt” and plans to face high velocity from pitching machines, “stuff you can do to try to get as close as you can and make sure your body is ready as much as possible.”
Posey acknowledged that none of that work can approximate an encounter with a big-league pitcher.
Assuming the season begins as scheduled April 1, Posey will be 34 years old and 18 months removed from a regular-season at-bat.
Much has changed for Posey, the Giants and Major League Baseball since then. The coronavirus pandemic was a seismic event for all, but particularly for Posey.
As the Giants were delving into their summer camp at Oracle Park, Posey and wife Kristen had just adopted twin girls, who were born prematurely and thus had compromised immune systems.
Posey was one of the bigger-name players who took advantage of the right to opt out of the season because he did not want to risk the lives of baby Ada and Livvi. The Poseys also have 9-year-old twins.
Now, as MLB and the Players Association try to chart a course for the 2021 season, still unsure where the pandemic will take the nation this spring, Posey would be willing to return to the Giants for spring training even if the league had to adopt the same coronavirus protocols that it used to complete the 2020 season.
“I think I’d feel comfortable after watching the way things transpired over those two months,” he said. “Plus, the babies are going to be roughly 7, 8 months old. That’s a lot different than premature.”
Posey could have opted back into the season, convinced the protocols were keeping players safe, but he said he was not close to picking up the phone and felt no guilt about being away as the club struggled with inexperienced catching while fighting for the playoffs.
“I made the decision for my family. They come first and foremost,” he said. “When I made the decision, that was going to be final for the season. I guess I was just at peace with that. I had a good time watching the team have success down the stretch. I felt it was a fun team to watch.”
Henry Schulman covers the Giants for The San Francisco Chronicle. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @hankschulman