Hearing from the Nationals’ new starting catcher

As reporters chatted with Kurt Suzuki in the clubhouse this afternoon, the Nationals’ new starting catcher learned exactly what type of team he was joining.

About 20 feet across the room, Mark DeRosa had grabbed the mic of the new karaoke machine in his locker and was serving as an emcee of sorts, introducing everyone that walked by.

He made up a nickname for certain players and gave others a shout out using the college they attended. Then, as Suzuki was in the middle of a sentence about leaving Oakland after nine years with the Athletics organization, DeRosa brought the interview to a halt.

“Let’s welcome to the clubhouse, for the 900th time this year,” DeRosa said into the mic in a deep voice, “the drug testing guy!”

Suzuki and the entire cluster of reporters broke out in laughter. Suzuki said he likes a loose clubhouse, and he’ll certainly get that here in Washington.

He’ll also get to be a part of a first-place team, one with the second-best record in the National League.

“I’m excited,” Suzuki said. “I had a great time in Oakland. There’s a lot of good memories there, but I’m ready for this and I couldn’t be happier to be a Washington National. I’m just looking forward to hanging out with the guys. I’m getting to know a lot of guys now and meeting everybody, hanging out. I’m just trying to fit in.”

The last 24 hours have been a little crazy for Suzuki. The Athletics have been the only organization he’s known as a pro, but he got a call from general manager Billy Beane yesterday telling him that he’d been traded to the Nats. Suzuki immediately packed up some things and got ready to fly cross-country to meet up with his new team.

“It’s been a whirlwind, for sure,” Suzuki said. “I was told about 11 o’clock that I was traded to Washington. I said, ‘Get me on the first flight out. I want to be there as soon as I can to help the team.’ I was really looking forward to this opportunity. This is a good situation for me.”

Suzuki’s offensive numbers this season (.218, one homer, 18 RBIs) haven’t been where he’d like them, but he hopes that more consistent playing time will change that. He also knows that the Nats won’t be asking him to bash 20 homers over the final couple months of the season, but instead handle the pitching staff with the top ERA in the majors and continue his stellar defensive play behind the plate.

Prior to the trade, Suzuki led all qualified American League catchers this season in fielding percentage (.996), runners caught stealing (23) and caught-stealing percentage (38.3%).

“That’s the most important thing: to build that relationship with the pitchers,” Suzuki said. “That’s what I take my pride in. It’s going to definitely be a little bit of a work in progress (getting to know them), but I’m going to do everything I can to speed up the process. I think it’ll be OK.

“I had a great pitching staff in Oakland for a number of years, and to come here, these guys are incredibly talented. I’ve been watching them on TV and watching them pitch, and I’m really excited.”

Suzuki also brings a veteran presence behind the plate and a laid-back demeanor which his former A’s teammates, including Gio Gonzalez, seem to appreciate.

“I’m a guy, I like to keep it loose, have fun,” Suzuki said. “The biggest thing is having fun. The veteran presence, maybe a situation you can diffuse it a little bit by calming them down and having fun. But it’s just working well, getting to know the pitching staff’s personalities to know what you have to do in what situation.”

If he likes keeping it loose, having fun and taking part in a playoff run, he’ll fit right in here.

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