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Sunday, April 10, 2011
Rangers Magazine: Catching On

By Bryan Dolgin

The Texas Rangers are 8-1. The pitching staff has a 2.48 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP (walks and hits allowed per inning pitched), and opponents are only batting .199 against them. The Rangers lead Major League Baseball in those categories. Certainly, the pitching deserves plenty of credit for this fine start, but don’t forget the fine job done by the catchers: Yorvit Torrealba and Mike Napoli.

“If we gave C's to our catchers last year, then we are bordering on the B-plus/A category [this year],” said Jim Sundberg, Rangers senior executive vice president and a former catcher who played 16 years in the big leagues, who graded the current backstops. “We knew that we needed an upgrade over the winter. Jon Daniels went out and got [Torrealba and Napoli], and it’s a definite upgrade.”

Torrealba was a free agent signee, and his deal lasts through the 2012 season. Soon after being dealt from the Los Angeles Angels to the Toronto Blue Jays in the Vernon Wells trade, the Rangers traded reliever Frank Francisco to the Blue Jays for Napoli.

Sundberg was a recent guest on Rangers Magazine which airs every Saturday from 11 a.m. to noon on the radio home for the Rangers, 103.3 FM ESPN. The Rangers Hall of Famer was a six-time Gold Glove award winner a three-time All-Star. He ranks sixth on the all-time list for most games caught in MLB history with 1,927. He holds the record for most game caught in one season in the American League with 155. You get the point. Sunny is the right guy to talk to about the Rangers' catchers.

“They are solid behind the plate," he said. "I’ve watched the way they block. I watched it all spring. They work well with the pitchers and plus they are going to hit a little bit.”

Napoli is batting .429 (6-for-15) with three home runs and five RBIs. He’s hit a home run in each of Matt Harrison’s starts, which are the two games Napoli has caught. Napoli’s versatility has enabled him to make three starts at first base. Torrealba has started seven games at catcher. He is batting .269 (7-for-26) with a home run and two RBIs.

The Rangers left spring training in 2010 with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden as the top two catchers. Later, Max Ramirez also saw time behind the plate. Eventually, Bengie Molina and Matt Treanor became the primary backstops. In this group, only Teagarden remains in the Rangers system.

For additional insight on the catchers and all things Rangers, follow Jim Sundberg (@backstop10) and Bryan Dolgin (@RangersRadioBD) on Twitter.