Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Kurt Suzuki and other catchers

Kurt Suzuki strokes a two-run double Monday.
Kurt Suzuki hit second in the Twins lineup on Opening Day, and for one day, at least, it worked. The veteran catcher singled and doubled and had all three of the Twins's RBIs.

Good for him. The fact remains that he has complied more than 3,200 major league plate appearances and has a career OPS-plus that is 14 percent below league average. He doesn't belong in the upper half of a major league lineup.

My fear is that Ron Gardenhire will remember this one game of production and base the lineups for the next month on it.


The Twins had a chance late in the game to get back in it. They were down three going into the eighth, and Aaron Hicks led off with a double. With Pedro Florimon due up against the lefty Chris Sale, Gardenhire sent up a pinch-hitter — not hard-hitting catcher Josmil Pinto, but light-hitting Eduardo Escobar.


Escobar struck out (I'm tempted to say of course), and while Suzuki later drove in Hicks, the potential rally went no further. Pinto never got into the game.

Keeping Jason Bartlett over Chris Herrmann is a curious decision on the face of it. If this kind of player use is the result, the roster decision looks even worse.


Remember 2011, when Joe Mauer missed about half the season and the catching load in his absence was carried by the duo of Drew Butera and Rene Rivera? Yeah, you were trying to forget that; those two make Suzuki's numbers look good.

Well, Butera made the Dodgers roster; he's the backup to A.J. Ellis. And Rivera not only made the Padres roster, he started their opener Sunday night.

Never underestimate how much teams value defensive skills at catcher.


The Washington Nationals were (are) not only counting on Wilson Ramos (once the Twins' top prospect) as their regular catcher, but as their cleanup hitter as well.

The oft-injured backstop didn't make it through Monday's opener, however. He left in the seventh inning with a hand injury, and the Washington Post reported he fractured a bone. The Nats announced, however, that a preliminary X-ray showed no fracture. More exams are expected.

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