Chirinos Injury Gives Opportunity Behind the Plate
Aside from the pitcher, the most important defensive position has to be the catcher. If for no other reason at all, this player touches the ball more than any person on the field. Communication with the pitcher is critical but the ability to sprawl around on the ground to block wild pitches is even more important than that. And while there are backstops like Joe Mauer and Mike Piazza who hit (or did hit in Piazza’s case) the ball pretty well, the drawing card for a catcher almost always begins with what’s done with the gear on.
The Rangers looked to hold their own behind the plate this year with Robinson Chirinos filling the everyday role and Bryan Holaday, acquired from Detroit just before the season started, serving as the backup. Chirinos’ 31 defensive assists overshadow his .232 average for 2015, making his value more behind the plate than at the plate. However, he has proven to be a solid part of the Rangers bottom third, recording 10 HR’s and 34 RBI in 2015 in only 78 games. But a broken forearm as the result of a hit by pitch has him sidelined for 10-12 weeks. To make matters worse, Chirinos was not awarded the base because he was believed to have offered at the pitch. So he finished the at-bat by crushing a deep fly out to right field with a broken forearm before succumbing to the pain. He may be tough as nails, but he’ll be out a while.
So that means the starting role will go to Holaday with rookie Brett Nicholas getting the call-up to work on his days off. Holaday was a perennial backup catcher and first baseman in Detroit with only 111 MLB games spanning five seasons spending a lot of time with their AAA affiliate. In 2015, he hit .281 with 13 RBI in 65 plate appearances. Defensively, he recorded five assists in 18 games as a catcher. The 28-year-old is a Dallas native and TCU Horned Frog who is happy to be playing at home.
With Holaday taking the everyday duties, Nicholas got the chance to make his major league debut in Seattle Monday night in front of a whole cheering section of friends and family that live in the area. The 27-year-old Nicholas has spent six years in the minors, never setting foot on a big league field. He finally got his shot and he made the absolute most of it. Apparently, the Rangers want to be known for making a big splash when debuting rookies. Just a couple of days ago, Nomar Mazara was called up to replace the injured Shin-Soo Choo and put up two singles and a long ball in his first three major league at-bats. Nicholas’ entrance wasn’t quite as spectacular, but he still had a single and a double, threw out a base runner, and did a great job helping Colby Lewis work through the lineup.
The injury to Chirinos is a setback for sure and Pudge Rodriguez is wearing a suit for Rangers Live instead of making snap throws down to first. But depth has been a strength of this ball club for several years, and I suspect 2016 will be no different. If these two guys can suit up every day for a couple of months, keep runners at first, and keep the ball off the back wall, the Rangers should be fine.