Houston Astros: Could Evan Gattis be the Backup Catcher?
By Eric Huysman
Would the Houston Astros be so bold to name Evan Gattis the backup catcher?
Last offseason, A.J. Hinch and the Houston Astros were very animate that newly acquired Evan Gattis will not be a catcher, instead, the team wanted him to be the full-time designated hitter. It got to the point that Gattis was begging Hinch to let him warm up pitchers between innings during spring training, but the answer was always no. He was also supposed to get some reps at first base during spring training last year, but an injury set him back and the Astros didn’t think there was time. Gattis finally gave up and accepted that he would be the full-time designated hitter when Chris Carter won the first base job last season.
Gattis got off to such a terrible start to the 2015 season, which I believe stemmed from the fact that he was not used to not being part of the defense. There were reports last season that Gattis was like a caged animal in between at-bats, not know what to do with himself. For some players, it is hard to adjust to the designated hitter role because they sometimes feel disconnected from the action.
When he started off the season so bad last year, he probably thought that his only job as a designated hitter was hitting, which is what he was not doing. Gattis probably started to press and try to do too much, which led to his over aggressiveness early in the 2015 season. Because he wasn’t playing the field, Gattis had more time to reflect on his struggles between at-bats. Players like to play defense to get their minds off the double play they just grounded into with the bases loaded, which is something that El Oso Blanco did not get to do too often with the elite defensive outfielders of the Astros.
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According to Brian McTaggart of Astros.com, Gattis has hired an athletic trainer to help him shed his designated hitter label with the Astros. Through an offseason workout program in which he lost 18 pounds. Gattis was trying to become more versatile on the field, and people who have seen Gattis in person can say that he looks thinner. Maybe a year of not catching would help Gattis’ knees recover to return maybe to a position he has played before. Ironically, according to McTaggart, the Astros want to get Gattis to play catcher from time to time.
Close your eyes, picture the end of the 2015 season, the Astros were closing out the season versus the Arizona Diamondbacks on the road in an NL ballpark without the designated hitter. If you remember correctly, the Astros were fighting to make the playoffs going into that series, when Hinch announced that Gattis would not start any of the road games. If they lost the series and had not made the playoffs, Hinch would have been highly criticized for leaving the slugger on the bench and the team lost. If Gattis could play somewhere else in the field, he could be in those crucial games down the stretch.
Below is the latest @TalkingStros from last night.
Should Max Stassi struggle to hit in the spring, could Gattis get some starts as the backup catcher? He was a catcher in the 2013 season with the Atlanta Braves, so it would be up to Gattis to do what it takes to build up the leg strength to catch every three to four days as the backup. While the Astros are maybe looking to get the occasional start behind the plate from Gattis, would they be bold enough to only carry Jason Castro and Gattis as the backup?
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Why would this be ideal? The Astros may not be sold on Jon Singleton at first, so might need a platoon partner in Matt Duffy or Tyler White. Preston Tucker appears to be the odd man out right now and Hinch likes having 13 pitchers on the staff. A few of these goals could be achieved if Stassi is not on the roster. However, I don’t see the Astros only having one pure catcher on the roster, unless Gattis really impresses this spring. This will be a situation to monitor…22 days till spring training starts.