Reinforcements needed? White Sox are good at catcher as is, Zack Collins says
“I don’t think there is a need for a veteran guy,” Collins said. “We’ve got experience and showed we can handle it.”
PHOENIX — Upgrading the No. 2-catcher spot was thought to be something on general manager Rick Hahn’s spring to-do list, but with two weeks left before Opening Day, Seby Zavala and Zack Collins are still the top choices to handle the job.
Collins says the Sox are good as is, scoffing at the idea of bringing in someone else to back up Yasmani Grandal.
“Why would you think that?” Collins said Tuesday. “I don’t think it’s necessary. Me and Seby did a decent job covering for Yas when he got hurt. I don’t think there’s a need for a veteran guy. We’ve got experience and showed we can handle it.”
Last season, veteran Jonathan Lucroy was signed and was thought by many to have the inside track for the job. But he was released on March 29. Collins and catcher Yermin Mercedes, now playing outfield, made the Opening Day roster.
Zavala was called up from Triple-A Charlotte in July after Grandal suffered a torn tendon in his right knee. Collins was on the American League Division Series roster but did not play.
“They’re going to do what they got to do, and if me and Zack are competing for the job, I’m going to do what I have to do,” Zavala said. “If it’s good enough for them, then I’ll be there, and if not, they’ll bring someone else. If not, I’ll go to work and be there for my pitchers, and they can make whatever decision they want to make.”
Zavala gained 10 to 15 pounds in the offseason because he has trouble keeping weight on through a season and says his body “works better” with more weight. His point of emphasis this spring is throwing better and “holding pitchers accountable for being quick to the plate.”
“We need to keep the double play in order,” he said.
Collins is focusing on being the hitter he was in college and the minor leagues, “hitting homers and driving in runs — that’s it.”
“I was drafted [No. 10 overall in 2016] because I could hit; the questions were about catching,” he said. “Now I feel like it’s flipped on me. The team needs offense — everyone needs offense — and I just want to get back to where I was before.’’
Collins was charged with three passed balls and there were 37 wild pitches on his watch in 73 games last season, and he threw out 17% of base-stealers. He batted .210/.330/.338 with four homers in 33 games. Zavala was charged with eight passed balls, and there were 15 wild pitches on his watch. He threw out 11% of base-stealers. Zavala batted .183/.240/.376 with five homers. Both were below replacement level last season and during their careers, according to Baseball Reference WAR.
Non-roster invitee Nick Ciuffo and Carlos Perez, who caught at Double-A Birmingham and briefly at Charlotte and continues to impress manager Tony La Russa, are also in camp.
Whatever happens, whether it’s the right-handed-hitting Zavala, left-handed-hitting Collins or an addition in a late-breaking trade, it’s important in the Sox’ scheme of things.
“We know what’s at stake because the guy who sits in that second spot is going to play,’’ La Russa said.
That’s because Grandal won’t be worn down with an overload of work. La Russa will use him a fair amount as a designated hitter to help keep him fresh. If the Sox make the postseason, Grandal likely will be asked to catch most if not all of the games.
“It’s a long season, and he puts a lot into it,” La Russa said. “You’re not going to want to push Yas that way. It would be counterproductive to us for a long season.”