Inside look at the intangibles of catching

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brent-mayne-091112.jpgMatthew broke down the free agent catchers last night, giving detailed predictions into where they are likely to go, and for how much money.

It all gets one to thinking about what you should value most in a catcher: Is it offense? Defense? Calling a game? Handling pitching staffs and dealing with umpires?

They’re the quarterbacks of baseball. Perhaps the most important — and often undervalued — position in the game.

Which brings me to a fascinating column on Baseballanalysts.com by former catcher Brent Mayne, who delves into the “Intangibles of Catching,” giving us a good look at what goes on behind the plate.

Allow me to explain and show you how I see it from a catcher’s perspective. For every pitch, you’ve got about eight million variables coming at you. Who is the hitter and how have I attacked him in the past? What is the game situation? What are your pitcher’s strengths and weaknesses? What is the game plan/scouting report? Who is the umpire and what is his strike zone today? What does your manager want? The list goes on and on. And you need to process all this information and put down the correct number…right now.

Mayne, who hit .263 in 15 seasons in the majors (1990-2004), goes on to write about his disgust for managers who call pitches from the bench (particularly in the minors and amateur ball), the importance of communicating with pitchers (that’s Mayne above trying to calm down Jose Lima in 2003), calling pitches and controlling the pace of the game.

It’s an interesting story. I suggest you check it out.

Follow me on Twitter at @bharks. For more baseball news, go to NBCSports.com.

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.