Lee County’s Posey near-unanimous choice for MLB’s NL ‘Comeback Player of Year’

Buster Posey received 27 or 30 possible first-place votes for the MLB's "Comeback Player of the Year" on Friday.

Buster Posey received 27 or 30 possible first-place votes for the MLB's "Comeback Player of the Year" on Friday.

ST. LOUIS — Unlike the National League MVP award, this one was inevitable for Buster Posey.

Posey, the Leesburg native who is one of the leading candidates to win the NL’s top honor when the award is handed out after the World Series, was almost unanimously named Major League Baseball’s NL Comeback Player of the Year on Friday after he returned from a brutal injury suffered during a home plate collision last May. The San Francisco Giants catcher, who garnished his league-leading .336 batting average with a career-best 24 home runs and 103 RBI to win his first NL batting title, received 27 of 30 first-place votes from MLB.com site reporters who participated in the balloting.

Atlanta right-hander Kris Medlen, who got two first-place votes, finished second.

Of course, Posey’s award would’ve never come about if not for “The Hit Heard ‘Round San Francisco.”

The collision took place when Florida Marlins baserunner Scott Cousins slammed into Posey during a play at home May 25, 2011, breaking Posey’s left fibula and tearing three tendons in his ankle when he was bent backward awkwardly while in a crouching position by a charging Cousins. Posey underwent surgery four days later to have two screws inserted in his leg to provide stability, and he was out of action while rehabbing for nearly six months.

Posey missed the remainder of his sophomore season, and no one was unsure whether he would be the same player — who won the NL Rookie of the Year honor and led the Giants World Series title in 2010 — when he returned.

Turns out, he was even better.

Posey’s latest distinction continued a rewarding year in which he set an NL record by receiving 7,621,370 votes from fans in All-Star Game balloting, helped the Giants win the NL West and reach the National League Championship Series.

Posey, who was busy preparing for Game 5 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday when the award was announced, was not immediately available for comment.

Although, in an interview last week, Posey praised the Giants’ training staff for his speedy return.

“I give a lot of credit to (head trainer) Dave Groeschner and the entire staff for all the work they did to get me back on the field,” he said.

By October, Posey had resumed running and catching pitchers’ throwing sessions off bullpen mounds. He was physically ready for the start of spring training this year, but the Giants regulated his activity to minimize the risk of his re-injuring himself.

The Giants maintained that caution with Posey throughout the season. Though he appeared in 148 games, manager Bruce Bochy accented the 25-year-old’s periodic rests by playing him at first base, which spared him from the rigors of catching and maintained his valuable presence in the cleanup spot. Posey started 111 games at catcher, 29 at first base and three as a designated hitter.

Besides winning the batting title, Posey finished among the NL’s Top 10 in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, RBI, multiple-hit games, total bases, hits, doubles, walks and sacrifice flies. Defensively, Posey threw out 31 baserunners attempting to steal, the Majors’ second-highest total.

Posey is the first Giants player to earn the Comeback Player honor since Major League Baseball instituted its award in 2005.

Tampa Bay Rays closer Fernando Rodney (serious back injury) won honor for the AL.

Rodney was second in the AL with 48 saves and had a 0.60 ERA in a 76 appearances. The ERA is the lowest by a pitcher with 50 innings in major league history.

Information from sfgiants.com and mlb.com were used in this report