SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Buster Posey heard the cheers when he warmed up his legs in the outfield well before first pitch. And again when he took his position at catcher, and each time he came to the plate.
Posey made another big step in his comeback just by playing at home again after an injury-shortened season last year, and the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year didn't even need to do much in the San Francisco Giants' 4-2 exhibition win over the Oakland Athletics on Monday night.
His mere presence on the field mattered most. Fans roared in support at every opportunity.
``It's one of the coolest experiences I've had in baseball,' Posey said. ``I feel really lucky to play here in San Francisco. This was really cool, all of it. It was fun. It was special.'
Melky Cabrera earned his own share of praise from his new supporters when he connected for a solo home run in the sixth to put San Francisco on the board. He then added an RBI single in the seventh for his third hit.
Bearded closer Brian Wilson ran out for the ninth to roars of his own. He struck out the side in order for his first spring save and showed no ill effects from the elbow problem that sidelined him late last season, thrilling the sellout crowd of 41,823 at AT&T Park eager for another special October run like the 2010 World Series winners had.
``Every time I come out to pitch I feel like they get louder,' Wilson said. ``It's really encouraging.'
Graham Godfrey didn't allow a run and gave up four hits in five innings with three strikeouts and no walks to make his case for the fifth spot in Oakland's new-look rotation.
Eric Sogard hit a two-run homer to the elevated right-field arcade in the third after entering the game to replace shortstop Cliff Pennington, who left after the first inning because of tightness in his left groin.
Sogard hit his third homer of the spring in the first of three exhibition games in this preseason Bay Bridge Series, and is using his steady bat to vie for a spot on the 25-man roster.
``My spring training outings have been a little bit inconsistent to say the least so tonight was definitely a confidence booster,' Godfrey said. ``Also, knowing what's at stake, it was a good outing for me.'
Posey received a rousing ovation some 20 minutes before first pitch - and he was only jogging in the outfield to warm up. The star catcher is making his long-awaited return from three torn ligaments in his left ankle and a broken bone in his lower leg suffered in a season-ending collision at the plate with Marlins base runner Scott Cousins last May 25.
``I was kind of waiting for it,' Giants starter Madison Bumgarner said of the reception for Posey, ``the first time the home fans got to see him run. It was pretty neat to see that. He's loved here.'
Fans jumped to their feet again and cheered when Posey stepped in to hit in the first inning. He grounded out to third on the first pitch he saw. He wound up 0 for 2 with a pair of walks.
``I can't express enough how meaningful it was,' Posey said.
And Bumgarner knows this crowd will take it up a notch for Posey when the games actually count. The Giants' home opener is April 13 against Pittsburgh.
``That's quite a welcome back,' San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. ``They know the long road he went down to get back.'
Bochy ran out what very well might be his opening day lineup Friday at defending NL West champion Arizona.
The A's have already played their opening day after two regular-season games in Tokyo last week against Seattle. The Mariners come to Oakland for two more games starting Friday.
Yoenis Cespedes went 1 for 2 with a double, a walk and a strikeout in his Bay Area debut after the Cuban defector signed a $36 million, four-year contract with the A's early last month.
Bumgarner, San Francisco's No. 2 starter behind ace Tim Lincecum, allowed Sogard's homer among his four hits over four innings, struck out seven and walked three.
``I just tried to get all of my walks out there today so I don't have any walks for the next month,' Bumgarner joked. ``I definitely got a lot out of the way tonight.'
A's manager Bob Melvin said he removed Pennington as a precaution and the shortstop might sit out Tuesday and play Wednesday's exhibition finale.
``I wanted to be as careful as I can be, and that's why he came out so early,' Melvin said.
Oakland left-hander Dallas Braden had his surgically repaired shoulder examined in New York by Dr. David Altchek - who performed his procedure last - and the team expected to know more by Tuesday.
NOTES: RHP Matt Cain starts Tuesday night in Oakland after signing a new $127.5 million, six-year contract Monday. He's looking to finish up 4-0 in exhibition starts. Cain tipped his cap when shown in the dugout after the third inning. ... Melvin isn't concerned about suspended slugger Manny Ramirez's tender hamstring, which should be healthy well before he's eligible to play on May 30 - his 40th birthday. ``He's the type of guy who gets up on the December day and is able to hit,' Melvin said. ... A moment of silence was held before the national anthem for victims of a deadly shooting earlier in the day at a small Christian university in Oakland that killed at least seven. ... Oakland RHP reliever Joey Devine, already on the DL for right biceps tendinitis, is being shut down for the time being because of further problems with his elbow. He had reconstructive Tommy John surgery in April 2009.
The Associated Press News Service
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