J.P. Arencibia is Toronto’s starting catcher, but it sounds like he won’t be behind the plate when R.A. Dickey pitches because the Blue Jays want to give the knuckleballer a personal catcher.
Last season Josh Thole caught 27 of Dickey’s starts for the Mets and he’s the leading candidate to fill the personal catcher role this year after coming along with Dickey in the blockbuster trade, but Henry Blanco is also an option if the Blue Jays prefer him in the backup role.
Manager John Gibbons explained the logic behind using a personal catcher by telling Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com: “They have to get the [side sessions] in, they have to spend a lot of time working with Dickey, because it’s an unusual and unique pitch. It takes a lot of work.”
And of course no catcher starts 162 games anyway, so having a scheduled day off for Arencibia once every five games could be a positive thing. Arencibia started 91 games last season and 118 games in 2011.
Robert Murray and MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported earlier, respectively, that the Phillies signed pitcher Francisco Liriano and infielder Neil Walker to minor league contracts. If he makes the major league roster, Liriano will earn a salary of $1.5 million with an additional $1.25 million available through performance incentives. Walker’s contract information is not yet known.
Liriano, 36, struggled from 2016-18 but enjoyed a productive year out of the bullpen for the Pirates this past season. He posted a 3.47 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 35 walks over 70 innings. The lefty was quite effective against same-handed batters, limiting fellow lefties to a .659 OPS. That would figure to be a key component if Liriano makes the Phillies’ Opening Day roster.
Walker, 34, hit .261/.344/.395 with eight home runs and 38 RBI over 381 plate appearances with the Marlins last year. The veteran is versastile, having played first, second, and third base along with both corner outfield spots in recent seasons. Despite Walker’s versatility, it is tough to see room on the Phillies’ roster for him, barring injuries to other players. It never hurts to have depth.