Monday, May 7, 2018

Backup backstops

 Bobby Wilson's
the same age as Joe
Jason Castro went on the disabled list with a "slight" tear in the meniscus in his right knee. I put the word "slight" in quotation marks because I dislike minimizing somebody else's pain or discomfort.

It's bad enough to make him sit for a week-and-a-half, not bad enough for in-season surgery.  Cortisone shot and rest, that's the treatment. I've had a couple cortisone shots in my left knee for a similar injury in the past, but I wasn't trying to catch 150 major league pitches a day at the time.

So Bobby Wilson, peripatetic backup catcher, is back in the majors. This is the ninth season that he's had all or part of the year in the majors, and the Twins are his seventh team. They had him stashed in Triple A for just this eventuality. He hit (not a typo) .042 in Rochester -- one hit in 24 at-bats. It was a homer, but still, 1-for-24 in Triple A is more likely to get a 35-year-old released than called up.

But there he was Sunday, catching Kyle Gibson and putting up an 0-for-3 line in the box score.

Some 30 years ago I had a notion that the best job in baseball was backup catcher. Sal Butera was the inspiration for that notion. Guys with the defensive chops to avoid glaring mistakes behind the plate and the ability to get along with everybody in the clubhouse (especially the pitchers and the stars) seem to be hang around forever even if they can't hit. Sal Butera never had 200 at-bats in a season, but he spent nine seasons on the fringes of major league rosters.

It's not hard to find similar examples. One would be Butera's son, Drew, now in his ninth major league season. Another: Chris Gimenez, Castro's caddy last season.

But there's a pretty obvious numbers squeeze coming for Wilson. Castro isn't expected to be out long, and Mitch Garver probably -- and should -- rank ahead of Wilson. Backup catcher is a good job, but it's not easy to find the right berth.

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