The Texas Rangers' pitching staff piques my interest more than any other aspect of spring training. However, I’m curious about the catchers. The Rangers have a solid tandem in Mike Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba. As we know, a pair of quality catchers is needed to get through the hot Texas summer.
Last year, Torrealba started 95 regular-season games behind the plate while Napoli started 57 games at catcher. In the postseason, Napoli appeared in 14 of 17 games at catcher. Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon coined 2011 as “Year of the Napoli” based on Napoli doing everything right. Ron Washington has talked this spring about both getting playing time, but one might wonder how those starts behind the plate are shared in 2012.
“I think Yorvit handled it well in the postseason,” said former catcher and current Rangers senior executive vice president Jim Sundberg, who is at spring training. “I think it’s probably an adjustment. Anytime you go from being a regular to sporadic play, it’s an adjustment both with your timing behind the plate and also your timing as a hitter. You deal with those things and you deal with the psychological issue of the change. It’s not an easy change, but they seem to do well with it.”
Sundberg was a guest on Rangers Magazine (Saturday at 10-11 a.m. on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM). Granted, Torrealba likely will get a fair share of starts at catcher because Napoli’s versatility enables him to be in the lineup at first base and designated hitter. However, I think most fans think Napoli first and Torrealba second when it comes to who is or should be considered the Rangers' starting catcher.
Napoli had a 3.16 catchers ERA last year, surpassing Sundberg’s 1983 Rangers record of 3.24. Sundberg is not a fan of the catchers ERA stat and emphasizes that the credit should go to the one executing each pitch.
“A lot of it has to do with your pitchers,” Sundberg said. “Obviously, having good chemistry between a pitcher and a catcher is a good thing. You’re really kind of at the mercy of the pitcher. It’s the reputation of a catcher over a longer period of time. That’s not to take anything away from Napoli. He did a terrific job. It’s really about the catching ERA on the short term that I kind of go very casually with.”
That brings me to wonder whether Napoli can repeat his 2011 success. Will there be any lingering effects from that gruesome ankle sprain from the World Series? How effective will Torrealba be in his second Rangers season? Who will emerge as the one that’s able to get the best out of Yu Darvish and Neftali Feliz?
Sundberg talked more about Napoli, Torealba, catchers ERA, and who he is watching at Spring Training. Listen to the podcast.
Follow Bryan Dolgin on Twitter @RangrsRadioBD.