The Nationals have used five different catchers at the major league level this season.
Currently, with Jhonatan Solano landing on the disabled list with a left oblique strain, their duo consists of Jesus Flores, who came into today hitting .230 on the season, and backup Sandy Leon, who has just four innings of major league experience.
That’s led some to wonder if the Nats would consider adding an experienced, offensive-minded catcher before the trade deadline. But general manager Mike Rizzo says he’s comfortable with the catchers that the Nationals have in house, and is pleased with the way that group - especially Flores - has handled the Nats’ pitching staff, which has the best ERA in the majors.
“I think they’re very capable,” Rizzo said. “I think Jesus Flores has shown he’s an everyday, major league catcher. He’s got the best ERA of any catcher in the major leagues. And him putting down the fingers and blocking balls and controlling the staff is job one for him. Any offense we get from him is a bonus. He’s caught, thrown, blocked balls and handled the staff extremely well, and we feel good about it.
“We like both of our backup catchers. Solano did a great job for us, and Leon is a young player, but he gives Davey some versatility as a switch-hitter off the bench. He’s a catch-throw guy. He was playing extremely well at Double-A when we called him.”
Flores has been scuffling at the plate of late, but he’s been integral in allowing the Nationals’ pitchers to put up such strong numbers this season. While there are catchers out there as trade options who could produce more at the plate, they would need time to mesh with the Nats’ hurlers, a process which wouldn’t be easy this deep into the season.
“If I see a good flow and a good rhythm (currently) and I see the pitcher getting it and throwing it and pounding the strike zone,” Rizzo said, “I know the pitcher and catcher are on the same page. And it’s often the catcher who has done the homework and the advance work.”
The Nats made a tough call today, designating Rick Ankiel for assignment, and they’ll have more difficult roster decisions coming in the next couple weeks, with Jayson Werth and Chad Tracy getting closer to full strength. Rizzo said the Nats will look at any trade options that are put in front of them, but they have enough roster flexibility that they don’t need to make a deal to free up roster space.
“We’re going to look at all sorts of trade possibilities, if they fit for us and if they fit for us long term,” Rizzo said. “I don’t see any roster moves forcing us or dictating that we have to make a trade. We’ve got players with options that we can move around. At a certain time, you’re going to be looking at a few weeks to survive until Sept. 1, ‘til you expand the rosters.
“So we think we have enough flexibility and we’re going to construct a roster cleverly to maximize the abilities to keep as much depth in the system as we can.”
The Nats trail 5-1 in the fourth inning of today’s game, and Gio Gonzalez has already gotten the hook after being hit around early on this afternoon.
Gonzalez allowed two home runs (a two-run shot to the red-hot David Wright in the first and a solo shot to Ike Davis in the second) and has already allowed a season-high five earned runs. He’s responsible for a runner on second as Craig Stammen comes in with one out.
This is the shortest start of the season for Gonzalez.
The lone bright spot for the Nationals through three innings is Ryan Zimmerman, who just continues to crush the ball. Zimmerman hit a solo homer in the first, giving him 11 home runs on the season
Including a bloop single in the third, he’s now hitting .364 with eight homers and 22 RBIs since getting a cortisone shot in his shoulder on June 24.