Johnny Monell talks about the backup catcher roster battle

SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles catcher Johnny Monell looks at this spring training as a fresh start. He spent seven seasons in the San Francisco Giants organization until the Orioles acquired him for cash on Nov. 30. Soon he will find if his destination will be Baltimore or Norfolk come opening day.

“Oh, it’s a beautiful fresh start for me,” Monell said this morning. “Just being able to get away from the situation in San Francisco and have the chance to come to the American League. Want to develop as much as I can, grow as a player and help out this team.”

Monell made the majors for the first time last September, debuting on Sept. 5 and going 1-for-8 in eight games. He spent the 2013 minor league season at Triple-A Fresno and batted .275/.364/.494 with 20 homers and 64 RBIs in 121 games.

In his seven minor league seasons for the Giants, the 27-year-old Monell hit .267/.351/.456 with 77 homers and 332 RBIs in 641 games.

Now he is competing with Steve Clevenger to be Matt Wieters’ backup. Some may feel Clevenger has the edge in the competition, but Monell clearly feels he’s holding his own.

“Feel like I’m having a good spring,” Monell said. “Catching really well, throwing really well and just trying to get familiar with the guys in the bullpen and our starters. I’m trying to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself and trying to win a job.”

The Orioles have made it clear that the second catcher’s job will be won with defense.

“J.R. (coach John Russell) emphasized that early on in camp,” Monell said. “The position will be won on defense. I’m very confident in my offense. I have a pretty good track record of a couple of years of what I’ve been doing.

“I’m really confident on both sides of the ball right now. I’m real confident behind the plate. I like my setup and the way I’m throwing right now. The energy I bring, whether I come in the game late or start the game. Just trying to maintain that energy throughout camp.”

Monell said the coaches do not provide the players with any progress reports on how their competition for a roster spot is going.

“No. You have to be true to yourself and analyze and evaluate on your own,” he said. “For me, I don’t look for someone to tell me I’m doing a good job. I work hard and I’m having a really good camp defensively. This is probably the most confident I’ve felt defensively back there.

“A friendly competition and we leave it up to the coaches to decide. Steve is my teammate and we’re both grinding.”

The Orioles are hosting the Tampa Bay Rays this afternoon here in a game that is being televised on MASN. The Orioles are 10-6-1 but have won just once in their last six games, going 1-4-1 in that stretch.

Here is an interesting item from today’s Rays’ media notes: Grant Balfour is pitching against Baltimore today, but it’s against O’s minor leaguers in Port Charlotte and not here in the major league game.

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