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February 16, 2012 at 8:51 AM

“Perfectionist” Vinnie Catricala plans to bring 3B defense up to speed

Chatted this morning with Vinnie Catricala, who you can see near the front of the photo above (next to Blake Beavan) walking out to the field for stretching ahead of today’s workout. Catricala was the team’s minor league player of the year last season after destroying the Class A and AA ranks with his bat.
He hit .347 with a .420 OBP and a .632 slugging percentage in 62 games for AA Jackson, actually improving on his A-ball on-base-plus-slugging percentage. His combined numbers last season were a .351 average, .421 OBP and a .574 slugging percentage.
The only thing missing from Catricala’s game was his defense at third base. Catricala told me he’s “a perfectionist” who has to get everything right all the time. But third base remains a question-mark for him given all the errors that keep piling up — 14 of them in 54 games as a third baseman last season.
He played much of last season with a sore shoulder that didn’t — obviously — hurt his bat any. But he says it did impact some of his throws.
The shoulder is now healthy after an off-season rehab and strengthening program in which he was able to do some heavier lifting in the weight room that was missing for him a year ago prior to the season. But Catricala isn’t about to blame everything on the shoulder.
“It’s weird, it got away from me in college,” said Catricala, a University of Hawaii product. “When I was in high school, my defense was what I was known for. Now, in college, my bat was what I was known for. I think I’m getting closer to putting them both together consstently.”
Asked why his defense got away fro him, the perfectionist was blunt.
“I got lazy,” he said. “I played on the FieldTurf and got good hops every single time. Like I said, I got lazy, lackadasical. I was in college, thought I knew it all. So, it’s taken a while to get back to the fundamentals.”

The reason his defense is such an issue is that the Mariners really have no idea who their third baseman of the future is going to be.
They have nearly a half-dozen candidates right now, everyone from Kyle Seager to Alex Liddi, to Francisco Martinez to Carlos Triunfel to Catricala. But none of those players has shown the combination of power hitting, on-base percentage and solid glovework that are trademarks of the hot corner.
In other words, the job is wide open.
And the fact is, Catricala’s bat is so good right now that if he keeps this hitting up, the team will have no choice but to jam him on to the roster some place in the next year or two.
There is talk the team might convert Catricala to the outfield. He dropped five pounds and concentrated on adding some speed to his game — while maintaining his strength — over the winter. But manager Eric Wedge said yesterday the team will still take a look at Catricala as a third baseman this spring in addition to getting him some outfield reps.
Left field is also a bit of a vacant spot for the club, as will be right field once Ichiro’s contract expries at the end of this season.
But the outfield tends to be easier to fill than third base. And if Catricala can solidify his defense there, he could be the team’s guy going forward.
Not bad for a 10th-round draft pick in 2009. For all the talk about how the Mariners never seem to get “lucky” in the draft, they just might have hit the jackpot here.



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