SHANNON DRAYER

Mariners Notebook: Will M’s carry Cal Raleigh as third catcher?

Mar 30, 2022, 11:24 AM

Mariners Cal Raleigh...

Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh gestures during an Aug. 31, 2021 game against the Astros. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Here’s some Mariners opening day roster intrigue for you.

Mariners standout bullpen even more steady for ’22

We know that manager Scott Servais wants relievers to fill the two additional roster spots that teams will be allowed until May. If that happens, the only intrigue will be whether or not top prospect and outfieder Julio Rodríguez makes the team. If one additional spot goes to a position player, though, speedy veteran outfielder Billy Hamilton could fit into the mix. How about a third catcher?

A week ago, I would have said no. Tom Murphy and Luis Torrens appeared to be the No. 1 and No. 2 backstops, but when Cal Raleigh caught Robbie Ray on Monday for a second straight time – in what would be Ray’s second-to-last spring start – I had questions.

“I really enjoy throwing to Cal,” said Ray. “I like the dynamic of him behind the plate. He’s a big guy, I like throwing to big guys, and he’s really working hard back there, too.”

To be fair, it is likely Ray would have had something nice to say about whoever was catching him, and this would have no bearing on a player making the team. But still, it seemed odd that Raleigh was behind the plate for Ray so close to the start of the regular season.

It turns out that was just how the work scheduled out and Murphy is scheduled to catch Ray’s last spring outing. Still, it warranted taking another look at the catching mix. Sure enough, in Servais’ Wednesday morning meeting with the media, he said it was possible the Mariners could break camp with three catchers.

“I think the guys have all played pretty well,” he said. “Obviously Torrens has swung the bat really well, he’s had the best offensive camp. Cal has some improvements with the bat. It hasn’t been as consistent as maybe he is hoping yet, (but) he’s done a nice job catching.”

In a nutshell, the Mariners like and trust Murphy to handle the pitching staff and be a leader in the clubhouse. Torrens is an offensive player first, one that Seattle wants in lineups against left-handed pitchers. Further complicating matters is Torrens is out of options to the minor leagues. Raleigh’s development is critical to future plans. The Mariners love him defensively and believe the bat will follow for the switch-hitter. Servais is encouraged by the changes he has seen Raleigh make.

“He’s in a way better mindset now,” he said, indicating that as a rookie last year Raleigh was quick to seek out information and make changes. “He has a plan. His preparation is a lot better. His routine in the cage, he’s got a routine now and he is actually sticking with it. This year it feels like he is fully committed to his routine.”

The maturity has been evident in camp. Raleigh physically has trimmed down, and vocally he steps forward both with teammates and media. He’s comfortable both on and off the field. The question now is about timing. He’s made changes at the plate. Would it be better to give him more time with those changes in Triple-A before bringing him up?

“He’s on the right track,” said Servais. “Just where we decide to go as a team, or is it better for him to maybe step back, really get it going and feel the confidence part of it at the Triple-A level and then come back and join us? I don’t know yet.”

The Mariners don’t want Raleigh to come up and sit like he did at the end of 2021 when they found themselves in a push for the postseason. Had he hit from the get-go, he would have seen more at-bats, but as it was he struggled and the team at that point could not afford to give him time to work things out. They don’t need to take a flyer on his bat now. There is time to let him continue to adjust and get game comfortable with the changes he has made.

One way or another, I don’t expect it will be long before Raleigh is seen behind the plate on what one could call a regular basis.

• Lineup!

Julio Rodríguez, CF
Ty France, 1B
Jesse Winker, DH
Mitch Haniger, RF
Eugenio Suárez, 3B
Jarred Kelenic, LF
Dylan Moore, 3B
Cal Raleigh, C
Jose Caballero, 2B

Marco Gonzales, SP

Game: Mariners at Cubs, 1:05 p.m. (radio broadcast live on Mariners.com, tape delayed 7 p.m. on Seattle Sports 710 AM)

Julio Rodríguez hitting leadoff. Hello! I caught Julio in the hall this morning and asked how many bases he was going to steal. He didn’t bite.

“I don’t know. It depends on how many times I get on first base!” he said with a smile.

Related: Is Rodríguez making Mariners’ roster? The case looks strong

Mariners notes

• Catcher Harry Ford, the Mariners’ first-round pick in 2021, is on the travel roster for the game against the Cubs. He is not expected to catch but could replace the DH.

• Shortstop J.P. Crawford is out of the lineup for a second straight day after undergoing dental work Tuesday afternoon.

• First baseman Evan White has undergone successful sports hernia surgery. There is no word yet how much time he will miss. He played 30 games in 2021 until suffering a season-ending hip injury.

• More catcher talk this morning. Teams are testing out the new PitchCom system this spring, and it gets good reviews from the skipper, a former big league catcher himself. PitchCom is a wrist-worn device that a catcher can use to punch in the next pitch and location, which then sends an encrypted signal to a receiver in the caps of the pitcher and others (middle infielders, pitching coach), with a voice telling them the pitch. Pitcher Logan Gilbert and catcher Tom Murphy used it in Tuesday’s game.

“The guys liked it,” said Servais. “It worked really well. The technology is really good. You can’t steal signs. It’s impossible until somebody cracks the code.”

Right now the technology is just being tested and use of the devices is optional, though Servais allowed for the possibility that they could be used in 2022.

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Mariners Notebook: Will M’s carry Cal Raleigh as third catcher?