Pirates catchers get more vocal
BRADENTON, Fla. — Jeff Locke's pitch sailed up in the zone, and Pirates catcher Michael McKenry instantly knew what was wrong.
“Slow down!” McKenry yelled.
It was Locke's debut bullpen session of spring training, the first time in months that the left-hander and McKenry had settled in 60 feet, 6 inches apart and went to work. Yet, McKenry quickly slipped into sync with the young pitcher, as if they'd worked out together all winter.
Practically every pitch was punctuated by a comment from McKenry. Sometimes, it was just an encouraging “Attaboy!” After some pitches, McKenry paused and gave Locke detailed feedback.
“I was a little quick at the top today, and he told me to finish through the ball, stay on top of it,” Locke said. “McKenry's fantastic at that. A catcher's got to be a leader back there, and that's what he is.”
McKenry wasn't the only catcher yapping with his pitcher. Russell Martin is known for being vocal behind the plate. Even Tony Sanchez, who in previous years stayed silent during bullpen sessions, has started speaking up.
“It's something we've been pushing more,” catching instructor Manny Sanguillen said. “I told Sanchez, ‘If you want to be a superstar, you've got to communicate with the pitcher.' ”
Each of the Pirates' top three catchers has something to gain from working more closely — and more vocally — with the pitchers. As a newcomer in camp, Martin is learning the staff from scratch. McKenry finally has set down roots and wants to expand his role. Sanchez, a former first-rounder, is trying to earn his first call-up sometime this season.
“You have 12 (pitchers) you have to know inside and out,” Sanchez said. “You have to know how to approach each of them in different situations. It's easy in the bullpens early in spring training because everyone's in a great mood, everyone's feeling great.”
Still, it took a bit of cajoling by Sanguillen and other coaches to get Sanchez to open up during the side sessions. Sanchez hates to be distracted by comments during his batting practices, and he figured the pitchers felt the same about their workouts.
“I don't like someone else telling me what to do every time,” Sanchez said. “But I do like somebody to tell me when I've made a good swing, when they see something they like. So, this year, I've really made an effort at letting (pitchers) know what they've got to do, what I think their mechanics look like, what I see their pitches doing. They've responded well to it.”
After Locke sprayed a couple pitches high, McKenry stepped in front of the plate, lifted his mask and urged a slower pace.
“Locke is a guy who's high-strung. He's a little nervous,” McKenry said later. “You've got to take control and slow him down. You've got to get him to lock onto the mitt early and try to drive the ball through the catcher, not just to him.”
The next few pitches went like laser beams to the low, outside corner, which drew a loud whoop from McKenry and a grin from Locke. A few feet away, Martin was getting chatty while he caught breaking balls from closer Jason Grilli.
“It was the same thing with Martin — interacting with the pitcher, letting him know when it's a good pitch and he really locks in on that spot,” Locke said. “Just communicating back and forth. I think there's going to be a lot of that this year.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates notebook: Tabata rediscovering his power
- Lincoln tries to rejuvenate career in second stint with Pirates
- Rossi: Pirates better with Maz on scene
- Pirates willing to consider high salary to keep star McCutchen
- Pirates notebook: Mercer gains celebrity in Kang’s home country
- Team interaction important to Pirates veteran pitcher Burnett
- Pirates notebook: Team has big plans for newcomer Kang
- The Starting Nine: Silver linings for Alvarez
- Pirates notebook: Nutting expects club to win division title
- Pirates’ pitchers strive to be more productive at plate
- Pirates infielder Kang has two-fold purpose in playing in United States