Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette declined comment on reports that he’s hired former Phillies general manager Lee Thomas as a special assistant, but he had plenty to say about new catcher Taylor Teagarden.
“Taylor will be 28 at the end of December and he’s an established and accomplished major league catcher,” Duquette said during a conference call with reporters. “He has an excellent ability to handle a pitching staff. Pitchers like throwing to him, and he’s very good at controlling the opposing team’s running game by virtue of throwing runners out. And offensively, I think he’s a real good complement to our team. He has good power and he’ll be able to support our current catcher, Matt Wieters.
“He’s also been a winning catcher. By that, I mean his teams win more games than they lose when he’s behind the plate.”
The Orioles acquired Teagarden from the Rangers this afternoon for minor league pitcher Randy Henry and a player to be named. Teagarden was drafted in 2005 while Buck Showalter managed in Texas.
“We’ve been talking to Texas for quite a while,” Duquette said. “And with Buck being familiar with Taylor, I believe the catcher should be the personal choice of the manager because he really represents the manager on the field, so this makes sense for our ballclub. Taylor’s ability to lead the pitching staff and control the running game is a very dependable skill and will help stabilize our ballclub. I’m glad to have Taylor join the organization, and the fact that Buck knows and likes him is a big plus for everybody.”
So is Teagarden’s familiarity with all of the Orioles who came from the Rangers’ organization, including pitchers Tommy Hunter, Pedro Strop, Zach Phillips and Darren O’Day.
“It’s just going to make things easier more than anything,” he said. “I know them all from playing in the big leagues or in Triple-A. It’s a great group of guys. I’m happy to be with all of them and for the chance to come to Baltimore and for the chance to shine and to be a part of it. I think it’ll make things go a lot smoother for myself coming into the clubhouse. From what everybody’s been saying, it’s exciting there and it’ll be nice to be in a place where you feel appreciated. It’s a great opportunity.”
As for his prior relationship with Showalter, Teagarden said, “Buck was the skipper when I got drafted, and my first spring I was invited to big league camp. I was injured at the time. I was around Buck just enough. I’d had a couple conversations with him. I know he remembers my face a little bit.”
Teagarden goes on the 40-man roster, and he’s expected to make the club out of spring training as Matt Wieters’ backup. He’s out of minor league options.
“I couldn’t be more grateful,” he said. “That’s all I really wanted at this point in my career. I was kind of in limbo with the Rangers the last two seasons. I just want that opportunity to get back up there and get the chance to perform. It’s been tough for me the last two seasons because I was healthy and, in my mind, playing well. But now that I’ve been given this opportunity, I just want to capitalize on it. It’s just a great feeling. I’m ready to work hard and get after it.”
Teagarden is comfortable being the backup and knowing that his starts will be limited, though Showalter is hoping to provide more rest for Wieters.
“It won’t be anything new to me,” he said. “The last few years in the big leagues, I’ve kind of been playing that role as it is. I’m used to playing a couple times a week, depending on the injury situation. It’s not a situation I’m upset about by any means. Whatever’s asked of me, I’ll just take it on 100 percent. I understand how to stay in shape and stay as fresh as I can.”
Duquette said he chose Teagarden over the various free agent options because “Taylor’s defensive skills distinguished him from a lot of catchers.”
Duquette has made offers to a few six-year minor league free agents.
“We’re going to continue to look for catching depth,” Duquette said. “We need catching depth for the major league team and we also need catching depth for Triple-A.”
As for the reported Thomas hire, we’ll just wait for the Orioles to make that one official, too.