Nationals catcher Derek Norris is in Washington working out with the big league club before he embarks on his first season with Double-A Harrisburg.
Norris is coming off a very good spring at the plate, and was able to work on his defense to the point where he feels confident in his setup behind the plate. That was the part of his game that he most wanted to solidify before the regular season began.
Nationals veteran catcher Ivan Rodriguez says each catcher can take advice from several different sources about their setup, but in the end, the player must decide what feels most comfortable to them.
"He is getting along good, (both) receiving and catching," Rodriguez said. "We know he is a good hitter. He hits for power. The most impressive thing for me to see from him this year was his receiving. The way he was catching this year, receiving the ball, blocking the ball, throwing the ball, I think he is going to be one of those young guys that is going to be great. So far in spring training, he was tremendous."
Rodriguez said there is no "right" way to receive defensively. Each catcher has to decide what is the most efficient way to catch and go with it.
"Everybody is different," Rodriguez said. "You have to be comfortable in the way you play the game. I told (Norris) once that a lot of people can tell you how to catch, how to sit, how to receive or how to hit, but basically it comes down to you. You have to feel comfortable yourself when you are playing the game because you are going to be out there."
"You are going to be the player who puts on the catching gear and go behind the plate and receive baseballs, blocking baseballs and throwing baseballs. That is always my philosophy to young guys and to players: feel comfortable and be yourself, and keep it as simple as possible to go out and play."
Norris says he did pick up a lot of catching knowledge by watching the future Hall-of-Famer Rodriguez go through his workouts and games in Viera, Fla. Norris said it helped him envision what it will require to be an everyday big league catcher.
"It gives you an idea of what it takes to get the starting job," Norris said. "I don't feel like I am too far away. Obviously, I feel like there are some things that I could attempt to do better to try and compete for that starting job in the future. I am taking those things towards the season and just trying to prove to the ball club that I have those capabilities of having the starting job."
Norris says he feels more confident beginning the 2011 campaign because he has no injuries to concern himself with and is at full strength. That has helped him focus on his hitting and receiving, which were very consistent in the instructional league, Arizona Fall League and spring training.
"I think throughout last year, a few events that happened got me out of my regular routines in my swing," Norris said. "I got with a couple of the hitting guys and straightened some stuff out with video. I learned to trust my hands again. I am using my power to all fields and not just one part of the field or one particular pitch. I started looking for a good decent pitch to drive and not trying to do too much with it."
Norris is motivated to advance even further this season, whether it be to Syracuse or D.C., and he showed his game is sustainable at the top level with some big hits in spring training.
"I have never had a chance to get promoted in the middle of the season," Norris said. "I have always just taken it year per level. It has kind of been a slow process. Hopefully, the strides I have made defensively, a lot of people are starting to notice that I am taking a lot of pride in my position."
Norris believes pitchers can respect him not just as an offensive threat, but also he wants them to be able to trust his defensive skills.
Norris envisions himself as not only "a hitting catcher, but a guy that is going to control the staff and contribute in the lineup as well. I am ready to take that next step in learning more about the game. I feel like it is not too far away, that it is getting closer and closer."