When the Pittsburgh Pirates released the Opening Day rosters for their minor league teams, Greensboro stood out for a very specific reason — they had four catchers.
It was obvious that 2021 first overall pick Henry Davis was going to get most of the playing time, leaving the others to find new positions to get playing time.
With Davis now in Altoona, that leaves more opportunities for Endy Rodriguez and Abrahan Gutierrez, the catching duo that helped back stop Bradenton to their division title last year.
Now with their focus shifting back to behind the plate, that catching combo will have to readjust their bodies to the rigors that come with playing the position more often.
“The hope is I give them back-to-back days, but one of them probably every other week will have three days in a row” Greensboro Manager Callix Crabbe told Pirates Prospects about getting the duo reconditioned and how the timeshare may work. “You’re naturally going to see them improve by getting the opportunity to catch.”
Improving is the focus in the minors, and it’s certainly something the duo are working on. Playing catcher is the most demanding job in the field. Not only do they have their own defensive responsibilities, but they also must carry their own weight offensively, and manage a pitching staff by building a relationship with each pitcher so that they know how to better approach opponents.
It isn’t easy, especially on the defensive side of things. Part of that is pitch framing, an art that could be going extinct due to the automated strike zone but still important in the meantime.
“What we’ve found is they were struggling early on with some of their framing metrics,” Crabbe said. “That was to be expected, mainly because they really hadn’t built up on a regular basis.”
When it comes to controlling the run game, it hasn’t been by a wide margin, but both have improved in their ability in throwing out base runners from their 2021 numbers.
Any amount of improvement should be looked at as a success, with baseball trying out new rules to help spark offense that include bigger bases, pitch clocks and limiting the number of times a pitcher can throw over to a base or step off the rubber.
Rodriguez is embracing the opportunity to get back to his natural position, despite enjoying his time at second base.
“I feel good to be back behind home plate,” Rodriguez said through a translator. “I’m trying to focus on blocking and keeping the ball in front of me and lead the pitching staff as best I can.”
The Pirates entered the 2021 season with a lack of pitching depth in the minors. Although Davis boosted the top end talent, it was the Rodriguez breakout and the addition of Gutierrez that really created the depth.
With Davis moving up, Rodriguez and Gutierrez are getting an opportunity to showcase their skillsets, and try to follow the same path up the system.