Catcher communication

Apr 9, 2009, 9:50 PM | Updated: Apr 4, 2011, 7:51 pm

by Mike Salk

I know I wasn’t at mini-camp with Brock (see below), but I had a good excuse. I was back at the studio watching the Mariners game and prepping for the post-game show. So, that’s where I was when three interesting things happened.

1. Jared Washburn pitched like the gritty veteran he is billed to be. I don’t know if it’s the addition of a new and improved changeup, the medicore Twins lineup, the end-result of throwing strikes, the guile of a veteran lefty or just dumb luck. But if Washburn pitches like that throughout the year, things may be a lot more interesting around Safeco Field this summer. Let’s give it another few starts before we start referring to Washbrun as “reborn,” but let’s also give credit where it’s due and keep an eye on his net few starts…

2. Up a run, Don Wakamatsu let backup catcher Rob Johnson hit with a man on second and two outs in the 9th. Yes, he of the career .135 batting average. I know managers don’t generally pinch hit for their catchers with a lead, but with Junior and Branyon both on the bench, it seemed like a possibility. Kudos for Wak for making the right call. Johnson looked stiff as he stepped in the bucket for strike one, but came through with the big RBI single after that. There’s something about him that I like. Talking to him in Arizona, he seems to have that intangible leadership quality you like out of a catcher. Coming up with clutch RBI’s don’t hurt either…

3. Brandon Morrow closed a game. And, outside of a four pitch walk to start the ninth, he looked pretty darn good too! So what was the difference? Well, obviously throwoing strikes helped. But what about mentally?

Tough to say excactly what is going on in Morrow’s head, but after he threw a couple of balls, Johnson came right out to give him a pep talk. Maybe it took some time to sink in, but it seemed to help Morrow get himself calmed down. Interestingly though, when interviewed after the game by 710 ESPN Seattle’s Shannon Drayer, Johnson focused on the importance of communication between baterrymates. Check out his comment:

 

For those of you who prefer to read rather than listen, I’ll paraphrase: when trying to get on the same page as a pitcher it helps to talk about it. Sometimes catchers have to let the pitchers make their own calls, but ultimately trust goes a LONG way towards success.
Now, given the stories we’ve all heard about Kenji Johjima’s issues with handling a pitching staff last year coupled with some comments I’ve heard from pitchers who have been around the M’s clubhouse, it sounds as if communication between pitchers and catchers has been a bugaboo in Seattle. Is Johnson referencing that? NO! Of course not! But he is pointing out the importance of something that has been missing.
The question is: can that communicative state be reached with Johjima behind the plate? We’ll see. But remember, while ace pitchers and even great sluggers effect games every couple of days to every fifth day, catchers can effect every game they play in. Can’t wait to see how this plays out…
What do you think about the Mariners’ catching situation this year? Drop a comment below, or call the show. 866-979-ESPN.
Or email us at [email protected]. We’re also working on lining up an ex-catcher to discuss this on the air. Details to come…Talk to you at 11:00!

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Catcher communication