TAMPA, Fla. - Craig Tatum doesn’t like missing games unless it’s part of his life as a backup catcher.
Tatum remains shut down with tightness in his right oblique. He hopes to take batting practice tomorrow.
Tatum sustained the injury while slipping on the plate during an infield drill, and he aggravated it while rounding third base in Saturday’s game in Kissimmee.
“Buck (Showalter) asked me if I could play and I was like, ‘Yeah, I can play.’ And they were like, ‘We’re going to shut you down for a few days.’ I guess it’s more like they don’t want it to get worse because they said you can miss a long time with obliques. I didn’t know that,” Tatum said.
“They ask me every day how it feels and I told them today it felt better than it did yesterday. It’s not a pain, it’s a tightness. They said maybe tomorrow I can hit if it feels like it does today, because it feels good today. I guess it’s just day-to-day. I’m ready to play.
“It pisses me off. I want to play. They said to be cautious and be careful, and Buck said, ‘Don’t do something stupid,’ so I’ll just do whatever they tell me.”
Tatum found an interesting way to describe the discomfort.
“They kept asking, ‘So, is it like somebody’s stabbing you with a knife?’ And I’m like, ‘No, it feels like when you have to go to the bathroom and you have those cramps. That’s what it feels like,’” he said.
“It’s not a pain. I can play through it. It only hurt running. I swung the other day and I felt it a little. That’s when they shut me down. I don’t want to be shut down. I want to make the team. I can’t make the team not playing. But I’ll do whatever they tell me to do. They know a lot more about it than I do.
“I’ve never had one. I don’t even do abs, how can I hurt my oblique? I don’t like missing games. I miss games because I’m not in the lineup. When you’re (Matt Wieters’) backup, you miss a lot of games. I told them I could play, and he’s like, ‘If it was the regular season, I’d let you play.’”
Tatum is battling Jake Fox for the backup job, so time missed is critical. Fox is hitting .341 with five homers and eight RBIs. Tatum is hitting .304 with no homers and three RBIs.
Their friendship adds another dynamic to the competition.
“It’s hard because you don’t want to root against your friends, so I just choose not to root against him,” Tatum said. “He’s hitting the ball well and I’m happy for him. We’ve said to each other that we could both make the team, but if he makes the team and I don’t, I’ll be happy for him. Maybe they thought it was the best way to help the team, and if it is and that’s what they want to do...
“I want the organization to win. I think this year, some of the guys we brought in are going to help us out tremendously. And the way Buck runs this camp is unbelievable. You’re not going to be put in a situation that you haven’t gone over. I know most times you’ve already been in those situations, but the way he’s doing it is a little different than you’re used to. I’ve liked it so far. And if Fox makes the team and I don’t, I guess that’s what happens.”
Unlike Tatum, Fox is out of minor league options, so he’d have to pass through waivers before being sent down.
“I’d lie if I said I didn’t think about it, but at the same time, I want to play to where the option doesn’t matter,” Tatum said. “And my job is to catch, not hit. The hitting is a bonus. A lot of people, all they look at is the hitting. When you’re a backup, how much hitting can you do? You’re in there once a week, so once a week you’ve got to keep your team in the game. And heck, with the lineup we’re going to throw out there, I don’t think you need...there’s not much I can do after you go through one through seven, the hitters we have. They might have J.J. Hardy hitting ninth, who’s just killing the ball right now.
“My job, if I make the team, is to catch. That’s what I’ve always been is a defensive catcher. Last year, I hit the ball. I want to hit the ball. Everybody does because that’s all anyone cares about, but at the same time, whatever I’m asked to do, I’m going to do.”
And that includes not playing.
Jim Johnson gave up a run on three hits in the bottom of the first inning. Derek Jeter reached on an infield hit, Nick Swisher singled and Mark Teixeira doubled for a 1-0 lead.
The Orioles turned a unique 5-3 double play to assist Johnson. Mark Reynolds fielded Alex Rodriguez’s chopper, made a lunging tag on Swisher at third and threw to first. Robinson Cano lined to first baseman Josh Bell to end the inning.
Johnson threw 17 pitches, including 11 strikes.