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Lobaton feels at home in Nats clubhouse

Feb 14, 2014, 1:48 PM EDT

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VIERA, Fla. — Jose Lobaton sat at his hastily constructed locker inside Space Coast Stadium, his No. 59 jersey not yet hung, his nameplate thrown together in the wake of Thursday’s trade with the Rays.

The 29-year-old catcher, though, looked perfectly at home in his new surroundings, aided in large part by the nearby presence of fellow Venezuelan Wilson Ramos, the fact Tampa Bay was overloaded with catchers in Jose Molina and Ryan Hanigan and the fact the Nationals had been pursuing him throughout the winter.

“They said they wanted it for two months, they were trying to get me, because they think that I can play here,” Lobaton said. “So I’m happy for that. It makes me feel good to know that I can play here. I know with Molina over there and Hanigan, when I saw they signed both guys, it was like: ‘Wow, something’s going to happen.’ But right now I’m here and I’m happy, ready to work hard to do the best for the team.”

Acquired along with two prospects for right-hander Nate Karns, Lobaton immediately becomes the Nationals’ No. 2 catcher behind Ramos, an experienced big leaguer who appeared in 100 games for the Rays last season.

He has known Ramos for about seven years; the two have been teammates before in Venezuela. That prior history helped smooth Lobaton’s arrival in Viera and will help him learn the Nationals’ pitching staff this spring.

“He’s got experience in the big leagues, he speaks the language, he knows the pitchers,” Lobaton said. “That’s what I want. That’s good. We’re friends. I’ve known him for a long time. We can talk for a long time about the staff, how to handle the pitchers. I feel great to have a voice in here. Hopefully we can be good partners.”

General manager Mike Rizzo cited Lobaton’s defensive skills — particularly his ability to frame pitches — as a major reason for the trade. Lobaton, though, became better-known last season for his skills at the plate.

After hitting a collective .202 with a .579 OPS in his first three big-league seasons, Lobaton hit .249 with a .714 OPS while catching 100 games for the Rays. And that doesn’t include his memorable October, during which he clubbed a walk-off homer against Red Sox closer Koji Uehara during the ALDS.

The mere mention of that Game 3 home run still brings a smile to Lobaton, who admits he watched the replay 20 times that night.

“It’s like: ‘Wow, I’m the hero,'” he said. “You want to be the hero all the time, but you can’t do it every day. When that happened, you’ve got to enjoy it. It was the best moment of my life.”

  1. tcostant - Feb 14, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    The Nationals must miss Henry Rodriguez. They just signed HRod 2.0 to a minor league deal…

  2. Faraz Shaikh - Feb 14, 2014 at 2:10 PM

    any ideas how to find pitchers’ numbers by a particular catcher? I am looking to find pitchers’ numbers when Lobaton caught them. I know how to do it if I go page by page for pitchers. that’s too much work.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 14, 2014 at 2:21 PM

        Thanks. I wanted individual pitchers’ numbers such Moore when he pitched to Lobaton, Hellickson, and so on. All this on one page. if I don’t find it, I will just make a table in excel manually and share here.

    • David Proctor - Feb 14, 2014 at 2:21 PM

      I’m not sure if this is what you’re looking for, but Lobaton’s Catcher ERA was 3.74 (league average is 3.86). Ramos had a 3.26 which was one of the best in baseball. Jose Molina, the other catcher in TB, had a 3.76.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 14, 2014 at 2:28 PM

        Not exactly, but thanks.

  3. scnatsfan - Feb 14, 2014 at 2:23 PM

    Let’s hope this move doesn’t discourage Leon but spur him to work harder.

    • jd - Feb 14, 2014 at 4:07 PM

      scnatsfan,

      I could be wrong but I’m pretty sure that if management viewed Leon as a real potential major leaguer they would not have been looking to acquire someone such as Lobaton. Both Leon and Solano have been around for a few years and have both been around AA or AAA and have both had a cup of tea with the big club. I’m pretty sure that they are not viewed as highly by the team as they are by some fans.

      Many players have had some uncommon success in the winter leagues and/or in the AFL. The numbers in the minors over the long haul are much more telling.

      • scnatsfan - Feb 14, 2014 at 4:41 PM

        I agree. I’m hoping his improvement this year continues and he becomes a real prospect.

    • Doc - Feb 14, 2014 at 3:50 PM

      Thanks for the up-date on CGar, TimDz!

      Wished the reported had asked him why he only pitched 1 month in Mexico–maybe the water was bad????

    • jd - Feb 14, 2014 at 4:15 PM

      Now if Garcia is healthy and can pitch like he did in 2012 that would be exciting.

  4. realdealnats - Feb 14, 2014 at 5:35 PM

    I asked this on the previous blog: What are Garcia’s + pitches, and what are his average pitches? Anyone?

    • unkyd59 - Feb 14, 2014 at 7:44 PM

      From the link to Kilgore, above:

      ” He threw a high-90s fastball, a wicked changeup and a hissing slider.”

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