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Thursday, Oct 19, 2017
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Tampa Bay Rays

Catching depth gets even thinner

ARLINGTON, Texas - C Nevin Ashley of the Triple-A Durham Bulls broke a bone in his right hand Friday, an injury that doesn't impact the Rays other than making their already-thin depth behind the plate even thinner. With Jose Lobaton (sore right shoulder) playing at extended spring and not close to returning to the active roster and Robinson Chirinos (concussion) on the 60-day disabled list, it would appear the Rays are running out of catchers who could help out at the major-league level should there be a need. "(Executive vice president of baseball operations) Andrew (Friedman), I'm sure, is on top of it," manager Joe Maddon said. "Right now we're OK here, but we're always looking for depth. That's a very difficult position to maintain with people that you like." It's tough to go outside the organization for help since teams are not eager to part with good catchers.
"That is one of the most difficult positions in all of professional sports is to get the catchers that you like," Maddon said. "A left-handed reliever, centers in basketball, quarterbacks in the NFL, these are really premium positions, and so it is one of those things people don't hand out easily." Chris Gimenez, who started Sunday night against the Rangers, has impressed the Rays more since his call-up April 15 than he did in spring training. Jose Molina, one of the Rays' big offseason pickups, has not been impressive behind the plate. He has thrown out two of eight base stealers and has had trouble blocking pitches in the dirt. "I know he would have liked to have done better to this point, but I'm very pleased," Maddon said of Molina. "He's still learning our pitchers, our pitchers are still learning him. I think you're going to see a major impact from him in a positive way as we move this thing down the road. He's a very proud man. He expects a lot of himself, too." As for the amount of wild pitches that occur when Molina is behind the plate, Maddon said, "Part of J-Mo is he's not giving up on a pitch and he'll try to hold it for a strike longer than most guys and sometimes when he does do that he's going to miss a baseball. But I think as he gets to know our guys better and we get more into the season you're going to see that go away." Maddon backs 'Hop RHP Burke Badenhop has allowed three home runs in his first 10 games this season after allowing just one in 50 games last season with the Marlins, but Maddon isn't displeased with him. "He's got plenty of ground balls, too," Maddon said. "It just hasn't been consistent yet, and I really believe the consistency will come. We just have to keep putting him out there in the right moments and eventually he's going to get it done. I really have a lot of faith in him." Badenhop said of Saturday's game, when he allowed a three-run homer to Adrian Beltre in the seventh inning, that hitters are laying off his sinkers that pound the bottom of the strike zone and not missing the ones that are up. "It's tough to be perfect all the time, and pound the bottom of the zone all the time, but that's what I have to do," he said. Helly vs. the King The Rays begin a seven-game homestand tonight against the Mariners with a pitching matchup that pits 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez vs. 2011 AL Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson. "You know who's out there. You know you got to be a little more perfect than usual with a guy like Felix out there," Hellickson said. Noteworthy The Durham Bulls have lost 13 straight. What's worse, No. 13 was a no-hitter Sunday against Indianapolis … The Rays were 1-5 on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball prior to Sunday night's game … RF Ben Zobrist hit his 21st career triple Sunday, tying him with Akinori Iwamura for third on the team's all-time list. Roger Mooney
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