When Diamondbacks’ manager Chip Hale declared the catching situation as “wide open,” those were the words Tuffy Gosewisch did not want to hear.
Though anointed here at the start of spring training as number one on the Diamondbacks’ depth chart, there is an uneasy cloud which hangs over Gosewisch.
As the back-up for Miguel Montero a year ago, Gosewisch realized he was stuck behind a roadblock and declared ready to go at a moment’s notice. Animated with a quick smile and friendly handshake, the 31-year-old former Arizona State standout appeared comfortable in that role and approached his condition for granted.
Now, the situation is vastly changed, his words appear more measured and his disposition deliberate. Still, the confidence is there and Gosewisch says he’s ready for whatever may come.
“I don’t take anything for granted,” he said the other day in the Salt River clubhouse. “I know there are guys out there who want this job, and I only know who much I have to work.”
With the free agent market this off-season of essentially of one catcher, and the Diamondbacks committed to unload Montero’s $40 million albatross around the neck of the franchise, Gosewisch was named by default.
Once Russell Martin signed with the Toronto Blue Jays, quality free agent catchers evaporated as quickly as an ice cream cone in the searing desert sun.
Since Martin’s signing, the Diamondbacks picked up 21-year-old Oscar Hernandez, a Rule 5 acquisition from the Rays’ organization and signed veteran Gerald Laird to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
Waiting in the wings is Peter O’Brien, whom the Diamondbacks acquired from the Yankees last summer for Martin Prado. With the reputation as a strong hitter but lacking defensive skills, O’Brien took that challenge and worked on defensive improvement during the Arizona Fall League.
During the opening day of drills last Friday, O’Brien clearly demonstrated his offensive skills. That’s when he hammered several pitches over the left field fence and banged a few more off the fence.
“Tuffy has the most experience within the organization and Laird the most overall experience,” said manager Chip Hale. “You also have to like O’Brien. He’s been working with (bench coach Glenn Sherlock) and has really improved.”
During the recent off-season, Dave Stewart, the team’s general manager, said O’Brien would be in Sedona Red sooner than later. While his ascend to the majors could be made before the All-Star, O’Brien’s improvement behind the plate and power at the plate make for an encouraging combination.
During Montero’s final seasons with Arizona, then-manager Kirk Gibson told reporters that Montero was penciled in for around 140 games of the 162-game schedule.
In the offseason, Stewart modified that number to indicate the Diamondbacks’ starting catcher would start around 120 games. For Gosewisch, any number is up there on his radar screen.
The issues of endurance and durability then are not issues.
“It’s all mental,” Gosewisch pointed out. “I can catch all 162 games, I’m ready. Whatever they want is fine with me. I’m here and ready to strap it on every day.”
When position players take the field for their first workout on Wednesday, they will face live pitching and not a pitching machine. This is the group of pitchers who took the mound last Friday.
That would include Yoan Lopez, Robbie Ray, Rubby De La Rosa, Braden Shipley, Aaron Blair and Allen Webster, players acquired in the off-season or, last season, in the Diamondbacks’ minor league system.
Facing Lopez could be the most challenging. The 22-year-old defector from Cuba was impressive in his first mound effort of the spring last Friday. His fastball exploded and demonstrated strong command of pitches.
Daily workouts are open to all fans and begin at 9 a. m. Fans are encouraged to park in the Desert parking lot.