Mariners Insider

Around the horn: A look at who’ll be catching in April

Post by Larry Larue / The News Tribune on Feb. 27, 2009 at 6:19 am with No Comments »
February 27, 2009 6:19 am


It’s never too early to start looking ahead, so we’re going to begin looking at the competition in Mariners camp, position by position.

When pitchers and catchers reported to spring training more than two weeks ago, one argument was that four catchers – Jamie Burke, Jeff Clement, Rob Johnson and Adam Moore – were each going to be major league ready by opening day.

And that didn’t include the man dubbed Seattle’s regular catcher by manager Don Wakamatsu: Kenji Johjima.

An embarrassment of riches, because there’s no way the Mariners can carry three catchers once hey open the season with a 12-man pitching staff. Barring an injury, the catchers almost certain to make the 25-man roster are Johjima and Clement (pictured), a righty-lefty hitting tandem.

What that means, unfortunately, is that the best defensive catchers – Burke and Johnson – will probably start the year in Class AAA Tacoma. And, come to think of it, neither Johjima nor Clement put up much of an offense in 2008, either.

The team is hoping Johjijma rebounds to 2007 numbers (.287, 14 HR, 61 RBI) instead of those he posted last year (.227, 7, 39), when his on-base percentage fell off to .277).

Clement, meanwhile, has had only 219 big-league at-bats, and in those has batted an unremarkable .237 with seven home runs. His swing has shown power in the minors, but it’s yet to translate consistently in Seattle.

Of more concern is their defense. Both Burke and Johnson call good games and have better arms, and Johjima hasn’t blocked the plate against a runner since 2006 – when he was flattened in a jarring collision.

In his first year as manager, former catcher Wakamatsu knows all this. What he might do in a perfect world isn’t going to happen, not with Johjima in the first year of a new three-year contract. And not with Clement, 25, offering the possibility of left-handed power in Safeco Field. If Clement hits his weight here (215 pounds), he goes north.

For Burke, Johnson and Moore, then, this camp is about who makes the best impression for down the line should Johjima or Clement be injured. There was no way anyone was going to crack that top two this spring, especially with Johjima in Japan for the World Baseball Classic.

A lot of catching talent, no real competition.

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