Chip Hale, Arizona Diamondbacks weighing options at backup catcher
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Diamondbacks entered spring training with all kinds of questions all over the field.
Who besides Josh Collmenter and Jeremy Hellickson would be pitching in the starting rotation? Who would start at third base? Second base? And what about the question mark-riddled catcher position?
Tuffy Gosewisch quickly appeared to land the starting job there, but the backup job was, and is, far less clear.
When D-backs manager Chip Hale made his third round of camp cuts last weekend, roster hopeful Peter O’ Brien — a developing catcher with a big bat who has also spent time at corner infield and outfield positions — was eliminated from the race.
And now, with another round of cuts imminent, all of Gerald Laird, Blake Lalli and Jordan Pacheco remain options for Hale’s Opening Day 25-man roster.
Hale told the media Friday that up to two of those names could make the team — a scenario which seems most likely if Pacheco is one of them, given the four-year veteran’s positional versatility.
“Is it two or is it three, with like a Pacheco?” Hale asked rhetorically. “Or could Pacheco be the backup, you know?”
Laird seems to have the best odds of the trio still in camp, given his amount of experience catching at the big league level. The 35-year-old has 12 years of major league experience behind the plate and he spent parts of four as a starter. But his bat looks to be behind his defensive abilities and experience value.
Laird hit .204 in 53 games with the Atlanta Braves last year, getting on base at a .275 clip. He’s a career .244 hitter and he’s hitting .238 in 21 at-bats with Arizona this spring.
Lalli, on the other hand, looks to be the dark horse in the race. He’ll be 32 in May but he has just 22 major league games under his belt. He spent the majority of each of the last three seasons in Triple-A with various clubs.
But Hale has been impressed with the catcher’s camp thus far and wouldn’t say that he was out of the race.
“He’s here,” he said, “and he’s swung the bat well. He’s a left-handed hitter, which is important to us — to have that left-handed hitting catcher.”
Lalli is hitting .263 in 19 at-bats in the Cactus League this spring. He has a double and a triple along with seven walks, which have boosted his on-base percentage to .364.
And, according to Hale, the Pittsburgh native’s value extends beyond his left-handed bat. He’s performed well behind the plate, too.
“I think he has handled the pitching staff well,” he said. “I think defensively he’s good enough to be a backup for us and his bat gives us a lot.”
Pacheco, meanwhile, was picked up by the D-backs off of waivers last season. He batted .272 in 47 games, but never caught, spending all of his time defensively at either first, second or third base. The 29-year-old has been behind the plate for just 41 of his 252 career major league games.
Hale said the decision for who would back up Gosewisch would probably be made by Friday, three days before Opening Day.
“Whether it’s Laird, Lalli or Pacheco — all three are in the running,” he said