One of the few position-player battles for a Seattle Mariners roster spot this spring is at the catcher position. And this is going to directly affect the Rainiers catching situation.
It is understood that Rob Johnson has one of the Mariners two catcher spots locked up. However, he had two hip surgeries in the off-season – yet, he expects to be ready to play by opening day.
The real battle is for the other catching spot. Will it be highly-regarded prospect Adam Moore, or one of the three veterans in camp: Josh Bard, Eliezer Alfonzo, and Guillermo Quiroz?
Rainiers fans are certainly aware of Moore, who handled the brunt of Tacoma’s catching last year. He can hit and is athletic behind the plate, but some feel he needs more time to learn the finer points of calling the pitches. If he ends up back in Tacoma on April 8, that will be the reason why.
Bard may win the major league spot. He hasn’t hit much the last two years, but he had a strong offensive season in 2007. Bard will be 32 years old on opening day and he has not had an extended minor league stay since 2004.
While Bard was signed to a minor league contract, there is some question whether or not he would accept an assignment to Tacoma. I am not privy to his contract details, but often a player with his MLB experience is granted an escape clause in his minor league contract at the end of spring training, so he can try to hook on with another major league team.
Alfonzo is a 31-year-old Triple-A veteran who I feel is highly likely to be on your 2010 Tacoma Rainiers opening day roster. In his last two seasons with Fresno and Portland, Alfonzo has had 320 PCL at-bats and hit .310-19-60 with a .900 OPS – numbers which I found rather surprising, seeing how the Rainiers pitchers consistently got him out with a steady diet of neck-high fastballs.
Alfonzo also has quite a bit of MLB experience as a back-up (155 games), mostly with San Diego last season, and the Giants in 2006-07.
As for Quiroz, he was the epitome of a team player last year. He spent time in Triple-A, got into four games with the Mariners, and when Moore came to Tacoma to play every day, Quiroz agreed to a Double-A assignment that was, frankly, beneath him. Quiroz spent all of 2008 as the Orioles major league back-up catcher and has been invited to major league camp.
At any rate, the Rainiers will probably open the season with two of these guys on the roster. Personally I’m hoping Moore wins the Seattle job – he’ll be 26 in May and needs to get his career going – but hey, if he’s with the Rainiers, that’s good for us, right?