D-backs 10, Cardinals 9, 16 innings: Managers look to keep catchers fresh, too

2013-04-04T00:00:00Z 2013-04-04T01:12:03Z D-backs 10, Cardinals 9, 16 innings: Managers look to keep catchers fresh, tooBob McManaman The Arizona Republic Arizona Daily Star
April 04, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Three games into the season might seem like a premature time to start talking about resting a player.

But with two of the busier catchers in the major leagues on the same field together for a third consecutive night Wednesday at Chase Field, it made for an interesting debate.

It became even more interesting when both catchers caught all 16 innings of Wednesday night's 10-9 Diamondbacks victory.

For the past two years, nobody has started more games behind the plate than the Diamondbacks' Miguel Montero and the St. Louis Cardinals' Yadier Molina.

Montero, who started 136 games last season and 131 the year before, has also caught the most innings over that time (2,359 1/3). Molina, with 2,311 1/3, has caught the third-most innings.

"I take a lot of pride in that," Montero said. "But I guess it's not really pride. I just want to play. As a catcher, you've got to be ready to play every day. Obviously, you can't catch all 162 games, but 130 is a pretty good amount."

But when is it too much for a catcher?

In the big leagues, teams usually take precaution with the arms of their young pitchers. They monitor their innings and they generally have pitch-count limits.

Isn't it wise not to overuse their battery mates as well?

Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said he would huddle with bullpen coach Glenn Sherlock and Montero during the team's charter flight to Milwaukee to discuss how to use the catcher during Arizona's upcoming three-game series against the Brewers.

"It's early, and he's pretty fresh right now," Gibson said. "With the off days we have (three in April), he'll probably catch the next three as well. Maybe it'll change. If he gets nicked up, certainly it could change."

Given the Cardinals' opening-week schedule - three night games in Arizona followed by three day games in San Francisco - St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said he doesn't see a reason to rest Molina, either.

"It's just about watching him," Matheny said. "Right now it's pretty easy to just keep letting him do his thing as long as he feels good. … For me, it's just a matter of how they look. If they've taken a lot of balls off their arms or they've been beat up quite a bit, you take that into consideration."

Gibson said catchers like Montero and Molina are too valuable to sit.

"I'm not going to catch (Montero) too much where we put him at risk," Gibson said. "But he's an elite catcher. You watch him and Molina both, what they do all the way around the diamond, it's very impressive."

Not only are they durable backstops who call a good game, both are offensive weapons. Two years ago, Montero led all catchers with 86 RBIs and finished second overall last year with 88 while batting for an average of .284 over that time. Molina has averaged 70 RBIs each of the past two seasons and has hit above .300 both years as well.

There are some managers who believe in giving their star catchers an additional day or two off early in the season as a means of hoping to help keep them fresher later in the year.

Asked if he subscribes to it, Matheny said, "No. I think you play guys when they feel good and when you think they need time you give them time."

Gibson agrees. A day off in April, he contends, won't help Montero in August or September.

Up next

• What: D-backs at Brewers

• When: 5:10 p.m. Friday

• TV, radio: FSAZ Plus, 1490-AM (Joined in progress at 6 p.m.)

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