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Sunday, December 4, 2022

First Pitch: Is McKenry Taking Over as the Starting Catcher?

The other day I wrote about Michael McKenry, noting his strong numbers in a small sample size this year, and asking when he would be for real. In the article I noted that McKenry’s numbers this year should give him more playing time, which would allow the Pirates to get a better idea of how legit his numbers are. With Rod Barajas holding a $3.5 M option for 2013, and McKenry hitting like a starting catcher, the Pirates could use the final two months to make a decision on who will be the starter next year.

McKenry started again tonight, and didn’t disappoint, hitting his 11th homer of the year. He went 2-for-4 on the night, and now has a .285 average and a .944 OPS. But what about his playing time?

I took a look at his recent games, just to see if there were any trends for when McKenry would play. There were. It’s a small sample size, but in the last ten games, McKenry has been treated like the starting catcher.

The Pirates used McKenry on July 25th, 27th, 29th, 30th, August 1st, and today. In the last ten games, McKenry has started six games, while Rod Barajas has started four. Two of the games started by Barajas were with A.J. Burnett on the mound. The other two were with Wandy Rodriguez. McKenry has been catching Jeff Karstens (twice), James McDonald (twice), Erik Bedard, and Kevin Correia.

If that trend continues, McKenry will be the primary catcher for the remainder of the year. It’s not a bad plan. McKenry should be getting the bulk of the playing time as long as he’s hitting. Even if he fades a bit from these numbers, he’s still doing better than Barajas, who heated up earlier in the summer, but has since slumped in July. Barajas does have a good relationship with A.J. Burnett, so it’s good to see those two remaining together.

It will be interesting to see if this continues. With A.J. Burnett on the mound tomorrow, I’d expect Barajas to catch. But a big test to this theory will come this week, with Erik Bedard going Monday, and Jeff Karstens going Tuesday. I wouldn’t be surprised if McKenry catches both games, based on the matchups we’ve seen over the last two weeks.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates lost 5-4 to the Reds.

**Pirates Notebook: McDonald Bounces Back in Loss; Correia to Make Spot Start.

**Prospect Watch: Taillon Has Another Good Start; Dickerson and Hanson Homer.

**Jose Tabata With Three More Hits in Indians Loss.

**Prospect Robby Rowland Looked At Charlie Morton For Motivation.

**International Prospect Trends: July 2012.

**Mark Appel Tops Baseball America’s 2013 Draft Rankings.

**Minor League Schedule: 8/5/12.

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Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.


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Demonio Red

Demonio Red • a few seconds ago

Liar. “Actually in the last ten games, both have started five games. If you
included today’s game, Barajas has started 6 of the last 11. If you go
back to the prervious 12, Barajas has started 7.”

Penguin owns you.

Demonio Red

“Actually in the last ten games, both have started five games. If you
included today’s game, Barajas has started 6 of the last 11. If you go
back to the prervious 12, Barajas has started 7.” Liar.

Penguin owns you.

Dave Parker's Unfiltered Camel

Great to see The Fort doing so well. Great guy and a hard worker. Reminds me a little of Mike Lavalliere, maybe because he’s not very big.


Starling Marte= Jose Tabata
Travis Snider= Brandon Moss
McKenry= The Answer


MERCER should be starting every day as well.


thank you and Good article.

Offensively, of course YES.
Still I would have liked included in this article comparisons on their defensive #s, though both i believe are below average.
Both seem OK in blocking the plate and bad pitches.
Why are both their arms so bad at throwing base stealers out? Are our pitchers just that bad at holding runners?
Both seem to be below average in pitch framing skills, but would have liked to see some info on that as well.
Pitch calling is over-rated, but just curious the #s for the pitchers when either catcher starts.

Demonio Red

When the difference in the offensive numbers is THAT vast then you don’t bother looking at defensive numbers. You really don’t.

The Pirates give up 6 to 8 outs almost every night Barajas and Barmes start together. If you’re buying the argument about their defense then you’re drinking the P.R. Kool Aid.


I think the term starting catcher needs to be defined here. McKenry is not the type of player who should be a traditional starting catcher. Those are a rare breed right now. Only 6 players have starter 80+ games at catcher this season. McKenry has however earned the large half of the time share.

Lee Young

The answer to the headline question should be an emphatic YES, its about time!!

Rod will make a wonderful backup! lol

Demonio Red

Rod would make a wonderful janitor.

John Lease

McKenry has earned it, that’s for sure.

Peyton Mack

I hope so. I always loved McKenry, he’s like the little kid you root for in little league. .944 is no joke, up there with the big leaders.

John DiVito

I doubt he keeps up the pace he is on now. But if he can hit .250 with decent power and maintain his defense he will be better than 70% of the catchers in the league!

Peyton Mack

I hope so. I always loved McKenry, he’s like the little kid you root for in little league. .944 is no joke, up there with the big leaders.

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