After Derek Holland pitched seven solid innings in Anaheim last night for his 11th win of the season, he sang the praises of working with catcher Geovany Soto. That’s become a common practice among the Rangers pitchers since Soto was acquired in a trade with the Chicago Cubs at the non-waiver trade deadline in late July.
Soon after the trade and on Aug. 11, catcher Mike Napoli was placed on the disabled list with a quad injury that kept him in the dugout until last Saturday. Prior to the Napoli injury, Soto was thought to be a bounce back candidate in 2013 based on the current season he was having at the plate, having missed a month with the Cubs due to a torn meniscus in his left knee. However, he was thrust into the starting role when Napoli went down.
“Anytime a catcher makes a change mid-season, you expect there to be some learning transition as he gets to know the pitching staff,” Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine said. “I think we almost feel like we didn’t experience that one iota. He picked up right where our guys had left off. He became such a student of the game, spent so much time with [pitching coach] Mike Maddux, [bullpen coach] Andy Hawkins and the pitching staff. On the days he wasn’t catching those guys, he spent time with each of the pitchers. I think he made it a seamless transition. So, yes, he has hit the ground a lot faster than we had expected.”
Levine joined Richard Durrett and me on Rain Delay Theater last Sunday on the Texas Rangers ESPN Radio Network. He also discussed Napoli’s impact, the difference in Koji Uehara since coming off the disabled list, the return of Robbie Ross, the concept of a must win, and this year’s playoff format.
Soto has started at catcher in 28 of the last 36 Rangers games. He has handled the pitching staff well, but he has not been too consistent at the plate. Soto’s home run last night was his first since September 3, and he is just 2-for-21 in his last seven games. In a lineup that features so many solid hitters, the emphasis is on how he is as a receiver. Yu Darvish, who starts tonight, has a 2.32 ERA when Soto is his catcher.
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