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Harper, Werth offer to be emergency catcher

Mar 22, 2014, 10:50 AM EDT

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VIERA, Fla. — The question pops up every spring: Who’s the Nationals’ emergency catcher? The need never actually arises, but every club wants to have a plan in place, just in case the worst-case scenario presents itself during the course of a game.

And as was the case last year under Davey Johnson, Bryce Harper made sure new manager Matt Williams knows he’s making his services available. Jayson Werth also volunteered to do it.

Williams’ response: “I’ve told them that will not be happening.”

Both Harper and Werth, for the record, were catchers in their formative years. Harper won the Golden Spikes Award as college baseball’s best overall player in 2010 as a catcher for the College of Southern Nevada. Werth, meanwhile, was drafted by the Orioles in 1997 as a catcher and played 403 minor-league games behind the plate before converting to an outfielder.

Williams, though, has no interest in risking either star’s long-term health by having Harper or Werth strap on the tools of ignorance again.

So who would actually be the Nationals’ emergency catcher? Williams said Danny Espinosa and Tyler Moore also volunteered … and the manager didn’t turn down either of their services.

“We hope something like that would never be needed, because (it means) you’ve got an injury,” Williams said. “Something’s gone bad during the game if you’re down to your emergency catcher. And you don’t want to get in that spot. But those guys have stepped up and said they’d do it.”

Since he was sort of on the subject, Williams also was asked which of his position players he’d let pitch in an emergency or blowout scenario?

“Adam LaRoche wants to be that,” Williams said, echoing the first baseman’s long-stated hopes of pitching in a big-league game. “I don’t know. Coming off elbow surgery? I don’t know. … He wants to be that guy, but we’ll see. Hopefully we never get to that spot, either.”

Some managers, Johnson included, insist they would never bring in a position player to pitch, believing it’s not fair to those players and makes a mockery of the game. Williams, though, is open to the idea if it makes sense both in the short-term and long-term context.

“If the game is completely out of reach and we’re taxing our bullpen, there may be a need for that,” he said. “We look at winning today’s game, but if there’s simply no chance we can win today’s game, I don’t want to cost us tomorrow’s game, too. Again, that’ll be an in-game, last-second decision. But I can see a need for it. That need arises from time to time. Hopefully we’ll never get there.”

  1. natinalsgo - Mar 22, 2014 at 11:02 AM

    The fact that your best bench player is the day Ramos isn’t playing. Lobaton is a switch hitter and can strategically be used gives a reason for a sound backup plan.

  2. natinalsgo - Mar 22, 2014 at 11:08 AM

    I like that Espi and TyMo also volunteered. That goes a long way in being a “team” player. For TyMo, he needs to be the 5th bench player.

  3. Jb - Mar 22, 2014 at 11:24 AM

    Have the Nats ever needed to use an emergency catcher? I can’t recall one instance. For that matter, when’s the last time any MLB team used one? Much ado about nothing.

    • deftndumb - Mar 22, 2014 at 1:00 PM

      Well, I do remember an O’s game in 1983 when IF Lenn Sakata was called upon to take on catching duties in the 10th inning of a game against the Blue Jays. The Jays salivated at the opportunity to steal on Sakata, and as a result Tippy Martinez — he of the towering curveball — picked three base runners off first in one inning. I’m pretty sure that’s the only time the entire side has been picked-off in the history of baseball. And then Sakata hit a walk-off in the bottom of the 10th. So that’s an example — albeit an old one– of the occasional and bizarre use of the emergency catcher.

      BTW: long time lurker, first time posting. I can no longer resist….

      • Faraz Shaikh - Mar 22, 2014 at 1:43 PM

        excellent first post! I can quiz my baseball buddies on this and drive them crazy!

      • Sonny G 10 - Mar 22, 2014 at 2:44 PM

        Jump on in deftndumb. The water’s fine.

      • natinalsgo - Mar 22, 2014 at 2:48 PM

        With good posts like that welcome aboard—unless you post about Orioles ;)

      • deftndumb - Mar 22, 2014 at 3:13 PM

        Gonat/Natinalsgo: my team was stolen from me in 1971 and I begrudgingly had to settle for the Baltimore squad, as I am sure many here have done. But do not fear, I have no intention of posting about that team, except perhaps to gripe about the awful MASN situation.

    • hantiaolang - Mar 22, 2014 at 1:13 PM

      This is going waaay back, and I’m sure it’s not the most recent example, but I remember Lenn Sakata stepping in as the emergency catcher for the Orioles back in the 80s. That may be the only time a catcher ever wore glasses behind his mask on the field.

      • hantiaolang - Mar 22, 2014 at 1:15 PM

        Whoops – didn’t see your comment, deftndumb. I was remembering the exact same thing. Tippy’s three pickoffs were a thing of beauty.

      • unkyd59 - Mar 22, 2014 at 3:44 PM

        WOW!!! deftndumb posts once, and is entitled to a free virtual drink!!! Well played, newbie… Well played! lol

      • Section 222 - Mar 22, 2014 at 6:11 PM

        Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Head directly to the NIDO spreadsheet and buy a drink for deftndumb:

        http://www.prettyfrickenbueno.com

      • slidell2 - Mar 22, 2014 at 6:59 PM

        In the late ’50s, Clint Courtney (Senators) wore glasses on the field..

  4. joemktg - Mar 22, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    It’s posts like this one where it is time to break camp!!! MZ: nice try dude, but clearly you’re at the bottom of your blog ideas bag. Hang in there kiddo.

  5. Mark Zuckerman - Mar 22, 2014 at 11:44 AM

    Calm down everyone. It’s just something to consider on a Saturday morning in late-March when there’s not much else going on.

    Honestly, I just wanted an excuse to run a old photo of Bryce in catcher’s gear and gobs of eye black! :)

    • ArVAFan - Mar 22, 2014 at 11:55 AM

      And that’s as good a reason as any.

      Given the way we went through catchers a couple of years ago, having a plan is a good idea, even if you hope you never have to use it. And there have been situations with other teams when they have ended up using a position player as a pitcher in the 18th or 20th inning. Again, can’t fault Williams for thinking about it. My favorite Murphy’s Law: if it happened, it must be possible.

    • zmunchkin - Mar 22, 2014 at 12:14 PM

      :-).

      The thought of Espi’s cannon launching the ball to second is tantalizing if he ever has to do that.

    • Attitude of Natitude - Mar 22, 2014 at 12:16 PM

      Post was worth reading, if only to see the phrase “tools of ignorance.”. The writing here is what keeps me reading NI over Federal Baseball.

    • natinalsgo - Mar 22, 2014 at 2:06 PM

      I really liked the post!

  6. 34natsfan - Mar 22, 2014 at 12:26 PM

    As far as I know, Harper was never injured behind the plate. We all know the situation in the OF. Would be cool to see, even of just for an inning… Without any announcement ahead of time.

  7. 3on2out - Mar 22, 2014 at 12:54 PM

    Jason Werth played catcher in 403 minor league games? There has to be some bar bet easy money available with that factoid.

    • natinalsgo - Mar 22, 2014 at 2:07 PM

      Good one! Post that old baseball card pic with JDub and his geek glasses. Oh my.

  8. Whynat - Mar 22, 2014 at 2:29 PM

    deft at 1:00 is a good example of why I love this site.

    • deftndumb - Mar 22, 2014 at 4:24 PM

      Golly, thanks! And you are one of the reasons I love this site.

  9. Sonny G 10 - Mar 22, 2014 at 3:11 PM

    Hmmm…maybe Detwiler won’t be lights-out in the BP.

    • Sonny G 10 - Mar 22, 2014 at 3:13 PM

      Maybe he can only come in to relieve once every 5 days. :(

  10. corkybb - Mar 23, 2014 at 11:35 PM

    deftndumb – Mar 22, 2014 at 3:13 PM
    “Gonat/Natinalsgo: my team was stolen from me in 1971 and I begrudgingly had to settle for the Baltimore squad, as I am sure many here have done. But do not fear, I have no intention of posting about that team, except perhaps to gripe about the awful MASN situation.”

    defmdumb speaks for me on this issue, as well!

  11. kirbs3256 - Mar 24, 2014 at 2:26 PM

    I do love it when position players pitch….especially if they strike somebody out. But I do remember the bomb Dezi hit of one of the Mets position players last year….BOMB

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