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Catching Blue Jay Catchers

Casey Stengal said, when asked why the Mets drafted a catcher with their first ever pick, "without a catcher there would be a lot of passed balls."

JP and Henry
JP and Henry

Everyone is talking about it, so I guess we should too.

John Gibbons has said that R.A. Dickey will have a 'personal catcher', making it sound likely that J.P. Arencibia will be sitting on the bench on opening day.

I do like the idea of the backup catcher caddying one of the the starting pitchers and taking his day each time through the rotation. The regular catcher should have a day off, every few, and this takes the decision out of the manager's hand to pick when the starting rests, though a former catcher like Gibbons should be able to figure it out without too much trouble.

I'll admit, I'm not sure that the Jays won't change their minds and decide to let JP try to catch the butterflies. They have said that he'll catch the first spring game that R.A. throws. And R.A. and J.P. (why can't people give kids real names?) are both going to be on Team USA for the WBC (take all the initials in that sentence and build your own words). I'd imagine Arencibia will be catching him there. The other US catchers are Joe Mauer (who I'd expect won't catch much) and Jonathan Lucroy (who I don't think has any experience with the knuckleball either). If JP does well, maybe he'll convince the Jays that he should be allowed to take him for the season.

The other choices are Josh Thole and Henry Blanco.

Thole is the guy I'd like to be the backup catcher this year. He seems ok with the bat, at least until the concussion he suffered on May 7th last year, when Ty Wigginton's shoulder collided with his head. I'm hoping he's all recovered by now, and he'l get on base at a rate closer to the .345 of 2011 than the .290 from last year. He caught RA last year and Dickey won the Cy Young. He's just 26, so he should be entering his prime. But then he has options and he could be sent to the minors, without worry.

Henry Blanco is said to be a good defensive catcher and Dickey said that he was the best he's had at catching the knuckleball. On the flip side, he's 41, he has a lifetime batting line of .227/..291/.367. I wouldn't expect him to learn to hit now. I know he has the backup catcher union card and all, but unless he's the only one that can handle the knuckleball, I don't see why we'd want him.

Blanco would have to pass through waivers to get to the minors, if the Jays wanted that. I don't really see that is a problem. There wasn't a lot of teams beating down his door, when he was a free agent this winter. I don't imagine anyone would make a waiver claim. I guess the real possibility would be that he would retire rather than play in the minors. If we thought he and Thole were the only two guys around that could handle the knuckleball, then that would be a bad thing. Thole could get hurt, and if we are convince they are the only two catchers around that can corral a knuckler, that would be bad. Course, if that were to happen, I'd bet Blanco would come out of retirement to catch Dickey.

Gibbons said, about the last couple of bullpen spots, that whether a player had options or not wouldn't be the deciding factor on who stays. They want the best team possible, regardless. They want to win this year. I guess we'll see if that holds true for the backup catcher job too.