With catchers and pitchers reporting to camp last week, news is starting to flow out of Jupiter. The biggest piece is around Yadier Molina; it was reported yesterday that the catcher has shown up to camp 15-20 pounds lighter than last season. Molina, now weighing 199, watched his diet and ran more to slim down, which he hopes will help him player more than 110 games this season. Molina’s knees have been an issue in the past and he’s typically one of the most used catchers in the game.
The lower weight should definitely help him; one of the most common problems for aging catchers is the knees. The wear and tear Molina faces will be limited with the lower weight. It also couldn’t hurt his base running. This is also good for the team, as Molina is one of the keys for success; when Molina went down in the NLCS, the team lost the 3 games he didn’t start.
One thing that might be seen in Jupiter is new faces at catcher, and not guys like Michael Ohlman; with Daniel Descalso joining the Rockies this season, the Cardinals are short and emergency catcher. Potential utility infielders Pete Kozma and Greg Garcia are sporting catcher’s mitts this spring to learn the position. Whichever does end up as the utility guy will also be responsible for being the catcher if Molina and Tony Cruz get injured in the same game.
Kozma said at the Winter Warm Up that he’d do whatever it took to make the roster, including pitching. Both he and Garcia are natural shortstops, so that gives them a leg up on recent acquisitions Ty Kelly and Dean Anna; this just adds to their potential. The backup shortstop issue is not new for the team though, since Descalso was considered the backup but is subpar at the position; if anything were to happen to Jhonny Peralta for an extended period, it’s better to have a Kozma or Garcia ready to step in over the others.
Closing out catcher news, Mike Matheny grabbed some gear to catch top pitching prospect Alex Reyes on Sunday. Matheny was planning on working with Ohlman when he saw Reyes didn’t have a player to catch him. Matheny grabbed his son’s catcher’s mitt to work with the prospect. Reyes isn’t in major league camp, but is getting a little work in before minor leaguers report.
Randy Choate sat down with Matheny to discuss his role for the upcoming season; Choate was unhappy last season being used for more than one batter and facing righties. Choate was brought in to be a left handed specialists, and his numbers support his frustrations. He’d like to be used more often in smaller stints; 2014 saw a recent low in games (61) and pitched an inning or more in a third of those games. Choate’s usage was a point of criticism last post-season, where he finished an NLCS game with an error on a throw that lost the game.
Matheny doesn’t like having specialized roles like the LOOGY (lefty one out guy); he likes versatility, so lefties like Kevin Siegrist, Sam Freeman, and Nick Greenwood provide more lift to the team by facing hitters from both sides of the plate. Matheny’s point of view does make more sense; there is little value to a guy that faces one hitter on a limited roster. At the same time, Choate was signed for this reason and Matheny needs to work with what’s he’s given.