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February 20, 2010 at 1:13 PM

Jack Hannahan balancing catching duties with need to play more shortstop

The sun has finally started to peek out here in Arizona, though the players are long gone. Some of you don’t want me writing about Jack Hannahan so early in camp. But I’ve got to say, those are probably the same people still asking me whether Matt Tuiasosopo is going to beat Hannahan out as a backup infielder. The easy answer, as I said on the live show the other night, is no.
The Mariners prize defense above all else when it comes to their backups. And while Tuiasosopo plays decent defense at third and looked OK at second last September, Hannahan offers an above average glove at both third base and first. Not only that, as we’ve mentioned, the team plans to use him as an emergency catcher this year — one reason why he’s working out with the receivers early on.

But that’s not going to last forever.
The Mariners are balancing Hannahan’s workload at catcher very carefully right now because they want him getting more work in at shortstop. Hannahan said after today’s workout that he came into camp a little lighter in order to increase his mobility while playing middle infield positions.
He played a couple of games at shortstop for the M’s last year and has professional experience at second. The Mariners feel he can be a solid backup at all four infield spots if needed, as well as the emergency catcher.
“They’re taking me really slow because the chances ofme catching are real slim,” he said. “They don’t want to blow out my legs. I’ve got to take ground balls everywhere too.”
The legs are the problem when it comes to catching too much and not being used to it.
“I lifted a lot with my legs (in the off-season),” Hannahan said. “But no matter what you do in the off-season, come in and catching a bullpen (session) and you’re going to be sore. You’re using completely different muscles, squatting all the time.”
The big thing for Hannahan, a catcher in high school, has been sitting in on all the catcher meetings and getting to learn the team’s strategies in relation to how they plan to pitch opponents. Hannahan never got to do that in Oakland, despite being the team’s emergency third catcher. He said that Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu had always wanted to bring him in for catching work in spring training while the pair was in Oakland together, but never got around to it.

As we said, the team has other plans for Hannahan as well. He never got into a game as the team’s third catcher with the A’s and there’s a much better chance he’ll be playing shortstop or second at some point this year.
“It’s a Catch 22,” Wakamatsu said, “because we’re going to ask him to play more shortstop in spring training. Again, you cut away what’s more valuable at this point. You don’t want to risk too much early.”
Wakamatsu saw Hannahan belt two homers off Felix Hernandez last year, so he knows he’s got a bat someplace. But that isn’t the main thing here.
“The offense is probably secondary for us,” Wakamatsu said. “You’ve got to cover the defense first.”
Speaking of Hernandez, he threw his bullpen session today. Not a big deal for him, but it was for the guy who caught him. That would be 19-year-old Steven Baron, who was waiting behind the plate for a pitcher to throw to him when he looked up and saw Hernandez line up opposite him.
“I didn’t know it would be him,” Baron said.
The pair worked together without a hitch. Hernandez didn’t speak to Baron, but the latter came away impressed with the movement on his pitches.
“They were moving all over the place,” he said. “Every single one of them had good movement.”
Chone Figgins completes our trio of catching stories for today. No, he didn’t handle any bullpens. Turns out he did catch a four-pound bass yesterday, though. Not at the market, either.
Say do you know what all this talk of catchers reminds me of? That’s right. Tortoises! One more time, for those of you who missed it:

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins


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