SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — After spending the offseason dealing with the uncertainty of free agency, Bengie Molina is right where he began, the No. 1 catcher in San Francisco, when general manager Brian Sabean's "that ship has sailed" summation during winter negotiations proved premature.
"I thought I was gone for real. But in the end, everything kept moving forward," Molina said.
One of the Giants' most productive hitters in the previous three seasons, Molina learned another hard business lesson in the process, his third time through free agency.
After hitting a career-high 20 home runs in 2009 and averaging about 17 homers and 85 RBIs in three seasons with the Giants, Molina believed his numbers warranted at least a two-year contract. None came, with his age — 35 — perhaps working against him.
The best the market had to offer was a proposal from the New York Mets that would have paid him $5.5 million this season with a $5.5 million option for 2011 that would have vested had Molina seen enough playing time this season.
With that as a backdrop, the Giants became a viable fit once again for both sides, both as another offensive weapon and as a mentor for young catcher Buster Posey. Molina signed for a base salary of $4.5 million with a chance to reach another $1.5 million in incentives.
"I wanted two years, and nobody was willing to. So I said, why not go back to one year? Posey needs some more time to be ready. Why not give it a try?" Molina said.
The experience was humbling, Molina said, since he has been one of the best two-way catchers in the NL the past three seasons despite playing home games in AT&T Park, one of the least hitter-friendly parks in the majors.
"As a player, you think had a good chance in free agency," Molina said.
"The pride that I am talking about is that nobody wanted you out there in the market. Nobody was willing to pay, or to give you the two years or the three years that you were looking for.
"That's the pride you have to swallow. The pride of coming back here I'm very happy to be back, and I'll try to do as much as I can to help this team."
The Giants' young pitching staff seems glad to have Molina behind the plate.
"It's huge. I know I can speak for the other pitchers and we agree that having Bengie back is just another huge addition for us. It keeps us comfortable on the mound," said Giants closer Brian Wilson, who has 79 saves the past two seasons.
"He knows the league. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. He is going to help us expose the hitter and get him out faster. He's been studying the hitters. He's been around them for quite some time. It just gives you less to worry about."
"The only pressure I feel is to help the team and to be able to get RBIs. For me not hitting cleanup, it is not actually a bother. I'll take it. I'll go wherever these guys want me to hit," Molina said.
"As I've said before, I'm not a fourth batter or an eighth batter. I just go out there and get a good pitch and try to hit it good and get an RBI or a base hit or whatever. That's what makes it easier for me to move in the lineup. This is a good lineup. I'm excited to see what we can do."
NOTES: Pitchers were able to complete their scheduled throwing Saturday morning, although rain canceled most of the rest of the workout. There is a slight ledge over the pitchers' mounds at the Scottsdale training complex, so the pitchers were mostly shielded. "The catchers got pretty wet," manager Bruce Bochy said. Off-and-on rain is predicted the next two days. Aubrey Huff arrived in camp Saturday, saying he is glad to have spring training in Arizona after spending his previous 10 springs in Florida with Tampa Bay and Baltimore. "I played here in the Arizona Fall League and liked it," he said.