Catching up on an odd position battle

SARASOTA, Fla. - The report date for pitchers and catchers at Orioles camp yesterday didn’t preclude a handful of position players from showing up. Mark Trumbo hit, threw and shagged fly balls on the Camden Yards replica field. Outfielder Ryan McKenna, utility candidate Chris Bostick, infielder Zach Vincej and Rule 5 infielder Richie Martin were in the clubhouse for media availability, and I heard that outfielders Trey Mancini and Mike Yastrzemski also were at the facility.

What really stood out to me again is how the Orioles are the rare team without a known starting catcher.

Camp competitions over the years usually include backup catcher, which bring a collective yawn from the fan base. Will Chad Moeller head north? What about Craig Tatum or Jake Fox? How’s Sal Fasano’s arm these days?

We know that his mustache game is pretty strong.

The Orioles have six catchers in camp, including non-roster invites Jesús Sucre, Carlos Pérez, Martin Cervenka and Andrew Susac. There’s really no way to accurately handicap the field, except to make Cervenka the longshot based on inexperience. He hasn’t played above the Double-A level.

Wynns-Dugout-Pregame-Sidebar.jpgChance Sisco and Austin Wynns were rookies last season. Sucre, Pérez and Susac qualify as the veterans with 223, 212 and 113 games of major league experience, respectively.

Though continuing to monitor the free agent market, executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias seems prepared to stick with the six catchers. May the two best men win.

“We kind of like it,” he said. “We want to get some good defensive catchers in there because we’ve got young pitchers. It’s just something that we feel is very important, so we’ve brought in some veteran guys with very strong defensive reputations to compete, but we also have some young catchers, a couple of whom have already played in the big leagues a little bit who are still prospects in a sense, and some other guys who provide some depth in the minor leagues.

“We’ll see what they have. They have a chance to crack this, too. We’ve got six guys right now that all bring something interesting to the table and I could see a number of combinations for that. We’re just going to have a competition.”

Everybody into the pool.

If you’re trying to crack the catching code, you’re going to come away unfulfilled. The door has been left open for everyone in camp.

The nod toward defense is good for guys like Sucre, Pérez and Wynns. Cervenka also impressed behind the plate last summer, but again, while playing for the Double-A Bowie Baysox. And some of his biggest supporters are gone.

Is it important for both catchers to have stellar defensive reputations? If the answer is “no,” Sisco’s chances suddenly increase based on his higher offensive ceiling and prospect status.

The decision must be made whether he’d benefit more from playing regularly at Triple-A Norfolk if the alternative is a backup position with the Orioles. But we don’t know whether the reserve would be a once-a-week guy or if the job would be split.

We know so little at this point.

“It’s a free-for-all and to be honest with you, that shouldn’t change anybody’s mentality,” said Wynns, 28, who batted .255/.287/.382 with two doubles and four home runs in 42 games and threw out seven of 22 runners attempting to steal.

“He should just go about his business and vie for that starting job. Every one of us. You don’t even want to think about that. Just go out there and just do what you do.”

One element remains unchanged regarding Orioles catchers in each camp: They all seem to get along. They support each other, encourage each other, despite jobs being on the line.

There’s nothing awkward about having their lockers all in a row, with Wynns wedged between Sisco and Sucre.

“You know what? With the new staff and all coming in, we’re going to be talking, we’re going to be going back and forth shooting information off each other,” he said. “We want to get better. (Tim) Cossins, he’s going to be working us and we’re all going to get each other better here and just be ready when games start.”

Cossins has replaced former bench coach John Russell as the catching instructor. Wynns met with him yesterday.

“It’s going to be different,” Wynns said. “When that comes, I’ll let you know the difference, but I’m looking forward to it.”

Before his sitdown with Cossins, Wynns joked about still trying to learn the pronunciation of the coach’s last name.

“I don’t know. We’ll see,” Wynns said. “But he has a good handshake.”

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