Scott Cousins says he wants to start anew.
JUPITER, Fla. — Considering the scorn heaped upon Scott Cousins, it’s no wonder his back gave out last summer.
Injury and infamy made 2011 difficult for Cousins, a reserve outfielder with the Miami Marlins. He’s healthy again and glad time has tempered the hostility directed his way after he collided in May with San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey, who suffered a season-ending left leg injury.
Cousins’ season ended less than three weeks later because of a herniated disc unrelated to the collision. He’s not eager to revisit a period that was painful in more ways than one.
“It’s past,” he said Monday. “That was last year. This is a new season for me and Buster.”
Posey has recovered from the injury, which included a broken bone and three torn ankle ligaments. Giants fans vilified Cousins, who endured death threats and a bout of depression while expressing only remorse for what happened.
“He’s a nicer guy than me,” teammate Logan Morrison said. “It was difficult for me watching him go through it.”
Cousins insists moving beyond the episode wasn’t difficult, because he did nothing wrong. When Posey tried to block the plate, Cousins slammed into him and scored the winning run.
“I know in my heart what I did was the right play,” Cousins said. “You can look yourself in the mirror for that.”
However, while Posey has watched replays multiple times, Cousins said he has never seen the play. He apologized repeatedly for the outcome and tried to contact Posey, but they’ve had no communication.
“He has moved on, and I wish him the best,” Cousins said. “He seems healthy. Good for him.”
Posey, the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year, is back on the field at Giants camp in Arizona. Cousins is also back after an offseason of rehabilitation, his status tenuous.
He’s one of five veterans competing for one or two backup outfield jobs. The other candidates include 2007 All-Star Aaron Rowand, 2009 NL Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan, Austin Kearns and Bryan Petersen.
Cousins said his goal is to crack the starting lineup — unlikely on a team touted as a playoff contender. But he said he won’t be discouraged if he finds himself in the minors on opening day.
“It’s not a big blow,” Cousins said. “Everybody knows this is a long season, and just because you don’t start the season in the big leagues doesn’t mean you’re not going to be there soon.”
The former third-round draft pick is left-handed and an excellent defensive player, which helps his chances. But in 89 career at-bats over the past two seasons, his average is .202 with one home run.
A .200 hitter doesn’t usual attract the notoriety that Cousins experienced after the collision that was dissected by baseball pundits nationwide. Pete Rose and Johnny Bench defended Cousins, while Giants general manager Brian Sabean was harshly critical, although he later backtracked.
When the Giants failed to make the playoffs after winning the World Series in 2010, many of their fans blamed Cousins.
“As a younger player, to go through something like that, it can be tough,” said Rowand, who was with the Giants last season. “But Scott didn’t do anything wrong, and Buster knows that.
“There were a lot of emotions at the time, but I’m sure there are no hard feelings. He was playing the game right. The catcher was between him and the plate. Most of the guys on our team didn’t think it was a dirty play.”
Coincidentally, Cousins grew up a Giants fan and played at the University of San Francisco. He returns to the campus every winter to work out and did so again this past offseason, training a couple of miles from the Giants’ ballpark.
He got engaged, and a rigorous therapy program helped his back, which bothered him for a couple of years. He grew a beard — now gone — and said no Giants fans hassled him.
“I was recognized a few times, but it was all pleasant,” he said. “Everything was supportive. There was no negativity.”
The collision will be nearly a year in the past when the Marlins return to San Francisco at the beginning of May. Cousins would love to earn a seat on that flight.