Wil Nieves of the Arizona Diamondbacks is lucky he’s a go-with-the-flow kind of guy, because when you’re the backup catcher for Miguel Montero, you may not see the field much.
Nieves was named the backup on Monday after the D-backs released veteran Rod Barajas. The two had been competing for that job since the start of spring.
“I’m just blessed that the team is giving me the opportunity. You know I was competing with a great player, a great guy, a guy who’s been in the big leagues for a long time and has a history here with the D-backs,” said Nieves when asked about Barajas. “I just did my job and just hoping that this was going to happen and grateful and blessed that the team has given me the opportunity to be with Miggy this year.”
The 35-year-old signed with the D-backs on Aug. 6 after being designated for assignment by the Colorado Rockies five days earlier.
Nieves knows it’s a tough task to backup a catcher that rarely takes a day off, but he’s up to the challenge.
“I’m going to be ready for whenever they need me. I know Miggy likes to play a lot so just be ready and keep working. When I’m not playing, work with Sherls (bullpen coach Glen Sherlock) on blocking and throwing and just be ready whenever they give me the opportunity, so I can perform good,” said Nieves. “I know Miggy likes to play but I’ll be ready whenever they need me.”
Nieves was called upon for 16 games in 2012 after joining Arizona, and he played in 32 games the entire season. In 83 at-bats he hit .301 with four walks, eight RBI and two home runs.
Most players don’t like to sit on the bench and Nieves is no exception but he’s also been competing for a starting spot his entire career. For most of his 18 year career, he’s been trying to win that spot with every team he’s played for, including the Padres, Angels, Yankees, Nationals, Braves, Brewers and Rockies.
“Obviously I love playing and I always tell Miggy, ‘You’re a great person and a great player but you play too much.’ I always joke with him like that,” said Nieves on Tuesday. “I’ve always been in the role that at least day games, I catch those. We’ll see maybe Miggy this year will want to rest a little bit more but if not, I’m just going to be ready whenever.”
Hopefully Wil doesn’t hold his breath. Miggy didn’t play in 21 games out of 162 in 2012 and has played in 654 games in his career.