Don Werner is in his seventh season in the Orioles' organization and in his third year as the O's minor league catching instructor. Werner oversees the instructing of catchers at all levels of the organization. He played seven seasons in the Majors and on June 16, 1978 caught a Tom Seaver no-hitter.
Werner recently answered several questions about top catching prospect Caleb Joseph and some of the other catchers on the O's farm.
What are your impressions of Caleb Joseph?
"He's been outstanding as a guy who just signed with us last year. He got a shot at Frederick this year and it turned out to be a great thing for him, he skipped a level, caught over 100 games and has done well with that pitching staff there."
What did you work with him on?
"I'm kind of a pain in the butt on footwork. Caleb is not blessed with a real powerful arm, so all the more reason he needs to have real good footwork. With good footwork and continuing to play long catch he can have a good enough arm to throw guys out at the big league level."
How can the O's help his arm strength?
"I think long catch is the best thing you can do. You don't have to throw real hard, but just get stretched out. You start out the year with a good program of playing long catch, but sometimes forget about it."
How does he deal with the mental aspects of the game like calling pitches?
"He's got a real good feel for that. To me you can improve a catcher's ability here but he also has to have a knack for it. He does. The pitchers all enjoy throwing to him. He has that feeling when a pitcher doesn't do well, he takes it personally."
With Matt Wieters now entrenched in Baltimore and Caleb having a lively bat has there been any talk at all about moving Joseph to another position?
"I think today, it's not like guys catch 150 games like Jim Sundberg and Bob Boone used to. So you need a real capable backup catcher. Caleb's bat will come along, so it's always nice to have a backup catcher swing the bat a little bit. He'll come up to me and say 'what do I need to work on.' I'll joke with him and say 'you need to work on getting traded with Wieters here.' But you really need a good backup catcher. Who knows, injuries happen sometimes, you hope not. You'd like your backup to come from somewhere in the organization. You want to develop your backups if you can."
With Matt as the clear number one catcher in the organization, is Caleb Joseph now the clear number two?
"I think right now he is. Someone may step up and do well, but if I had to pick someone as Wieters' backup down the road I'd pick Caleb."
Who are some guys you like on defense at the lower levels?
"We had a really good year this year in the draft. I went to Aberdeen and saw our number six pick, Justin Dalles. He looked good and swings the bat a bit, even though his average isn't there right now. We also signed our 11th pick that I just saw in Florida, Micheal Ohlman. He's an 18-year-old high school kid and he really looked good, too. I think this is the start of having some solid catchers in our system. I think this is the strongest group of defensive catchers we've had in the organization for years."
How are some others doing?
"Dashenko Ricardo is 18 and from Curacao. He's someone that might develop. Luis Bernardo in Delmarva may develop. He's 21 and is a great throwing catcher. I've worked with him on calling the game a bit. He's got a great skipper to help him there in Orlando Gomez. At Frederick we have a guy who is converting to catcher and he's someone I like that hasn't played a lot, in Wally Crancer.
If you look at our higher levels, you want to have an insurance policy. We have Robby Hammock and our pitchers like throwing to him. As far as insurance, this year with Zaun, Moeller and Hammock, we're in good shape there and then we have those younger guys coming up. That's why I say catching-wise, we're in the best shape I've seen it since I've been here."