Among the many question to be answered this spring: Who's going to catch for the Rangers? Because as T.R. Sullivan writes, at this point there's a competition:
- The Rangers have a mantra for Spring Training: whatever is in the best interests of the team to help us win.That's why there is extreme competition on the pitching staff. That's also why their catching situation is up for grabs going into the first workout on Friday. That's why Jarrod Saltalamacchia will have to fight off Taylor Teagarden, Toby Hall and others if he wants to be the Rangers' No. 1 catcher again.
"That's what we're basing the club on: what's best for the team and our ability to win," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "We have to apply that here as well."
So, for the third straight year, Saltalamacchia comes into camp having to win a job and there is still a possibility the Rangers could sign free-agent catcher Jose Molina. They have had discussions with his representatives and he still hasn't signed.
"It has been presented to us as competition, so I'm going to prepare myself to do what it takes to win the job," Saltalamacchia said. "I still believe it's a team game and we have to do our job working with the pitching staff and do what it takes to help them."
The job is open because of the uncertainty about Saltalamacchia's shoulder. He came down with thoracic outlet syndrome in August and had surgery in September to have a rib bone removed that was causing pain and numbness in his right throwing arm. The Rangers expect full recovery, but he did have one offseason setback when he tried to return too quickly to play winter ball.
"We're not certain about his health," Washington said. "He just has to show us he can play. If he can play, he's got the job."
Gee, this doesn't sound like much of a competition to me.
Toby Hall? He's 34, he missed 2009 with a severe shoulder injury, and he's got a .297 career on-base percentage. Hall isn't a candidate; he's cheap insurance in case somebody gets hurt next month.
And it sounds like the job is Saltamacchia's to lose. I'm just not sure it should be.
Remember when the Rangers had too many catchers? Well, that problem took care of itself. Max Ramirez, who tore up Double-A in 2008, suffered wrist problems in Triple-A in 2009, and even if he's healthy and hitting again he'll probably wind up at first base.
Saltalamacchia and Teagarden?
We're still waiting for them to hit.
Salty's career line: .251/.314/.389
Teagarden's career line: .237/.295/.457
But the statistical question marks go beyond the majors. Really, neither player has accomplished much above Class A, which makes me wonder why we (read: I) thought so highly of them in the first place.
Saltalamacchia turns 25 this spring; Teagarden is 26.
Teagarden bats right-handed, while Saltalamacchia has the virtue of switch-hitting (though it's not a great virtue if he doesn't actually hit).
A couple of years ago, it seemed (to me) like a question of which young Ranger would first establish himself as a star catcher in the majors. Now that seems like a silly question. Now the organization can only hope that one of them becomes slightly more than competent, and they seem to be close enough as hitters that maybe defense should be the tiebreaker.
Or Ron Washington could just do the smart thing, and platoon them.