Russell talks about progress of catchers

The Orioles sure do have a lot of roster turnover for a club that's five games above .500 and holding onto first place in the American League East.

They're making another bullpen move this afternoon after optioning left-hander T.J. McFarland following yesterday's 5-2 loss to the Astros. They placed catcher Matt Wieters on the 15-day disabled list and activated first baseman Chris Davis. And they continue to check the market for available backup catchers.

Executive vice president Dan Duquette spoke with Astros GM Jeff Luhnow over the weekend, a convenient set-up considering that Houston was in town, and they weren't swapping stories. Duquette was gauging whether there was a potential match, according to an industry source.

It would make more sense for the Orioles to pursue a right-handed hitter to pair with Steve Clevenger until Wieters is able to catch. Feel free to speculate.

In the meantime, bench coach John Russell - who works with the catchers as part of his duties - offered up a scouting report of sorts on Clevenger and rookie Caleb Joseph.

"Stevie's done a nice job. He's done some good things for us. He's still learning some things. Same with Caleb," said Russell, a major league catcher for 10 seasons.

"There's no easy games in the American League East, and that's what you try to express to a catcher. The calmness and staying in tune with me on the bench, as far as the signs go, and staying in tune with Buck (Showalter) with the signs. It's an ongoing process, especially when you get late in the games."

Joseph received a crash course at Tropicana Field in back-to-back starts last week.

"The two games that Caleb had to catch in Tampa were prime examples, and Stevie's been in those situations, as well," Russell said. "It's slowing the game down, and I think that's the next step for Steve and Caleb. But for Steve, I've seen some improvement when the game gets a little hairy. He's starting to relax a little bit more, starting to get it a little more under control - patience and slowing the game down.

"When you're giving signs when the pitcher is out there and you're giving signs to the infielders as far as first and thirds or the bunt plays, I tell the catcher, 'You're out there and it's the eighth or ninth inning and everybody's looking at you. All the infielders are looking at you and you're panicked a little bit, they're going to kind of give you that cross eyed look like, wait a minute, what are we doing here?' And he's really improved with that.

"The receiving part, I think he's doing a nice job. He's blocked well. He's made some decent throws. We just haven't gotten anybody out. But for the most part, Steve's made nice progress for us, and hopefully he continues down that path. He really set a goal in spring training and he seems to be following through with it."

The Orioles need to do a better job of controlling the opposition's running game. Wieters was 1-for-12 on stolen base attempts before going on the DL. Clevenger is 2-for-13 and Joseph is 0-for-2.

The Astros stole four bases Saturday night, but all the blame can't be laid at the feet of the catcher. The pitchers must do their part to hold the runners and be quick to the plate.

No team has attempted to steal on Chris Tillman this season. Only one runner was successful against him last year.

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