I normally wouldn’t do a post about a guy losing a backup catcher competition, but this one is notable because he was supposed to be an extra special backup catcher: the Blue Jays have sent Josh Thole down to the minors.
Many thought the whole point of the Mets including Thole in the deal that sent R.A. Dickey to Toronto was so that he could be Dickey’s personal catcher. You know, because knuckleballers are so erratic and need a special guy around. Maybe the height of this was when The Red Sox took such efforts to get Doug Mirabelli back from the Padres in 2006, after Tim Wakefield had to go without his special services behind the plate for almost a whole month. Mirabelli had a friggin’ police escort to Fenway Park he was so important.
But there are apparently limits to what a team will do for a knuckleballer’s special friend, and carrying Thole’s bat is the limit. Thole hit just .234/.294/.290 last year and was doing even worse this spring for his new club. It appears as though Henry Blanco who, conservatively, has been catching 142 years, will get the backup job.
MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosh reports that the Cardinals are shutting down pitcher Carlos Martínez from throwing for two weeks because his shoulder strength isn’t where it should have been at this point. Langosch added that an MRI showed no structural damage in Martínez’s right shoulder.
Interestingly, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak didn’t sound too happy with Martínez offseason training regimen. Per Mark Saxon of The Athletic, Mozeliak said, “Obviously, there’s a history with Carlos’ shoulder and it would be probably in everybody’s best interest if he maintained a constant or perpetual approach to that program.”
Martínez, 27, battled oblique and shoulder injuries last year. He accrued just 118 2/3 innings, making just 18 starts. He was moved to the bullpen when he returned from the disabled list in August and finished out the season in that role. Still, Martínez managed a 3.11 ERA with 117 strikeouts and 60 walks.
Langosch reported last week that the Cardinals were considering using Martínez in relief again in 2019. The latest news may push the Cardinals to indeed use Martínez out of the bullpen once again. He will be reevaluated in early March, but there is a chance he won’t be ready for Opening Day.