Here is an update on the catchers at instructional league. Nationals catching coordinator Michael Barrett, who caught in the major leagues for 12 seasons, coached up and worked with the young backstops as they participated in the October camp.
Here is a rundown of the catchers in camp and current ages:
Geraldi Diaz, 20
Mason Doolittle, 22
Brady Lindsly, 22
Ivan Murzi, 19
Wilmer Perez, 22
Israel Pineda, 20
Ray Torres, 20
Barrett was impressed with how seriously all of these catchers took the October camp and how they looked to get better with every drill and every game. The camp included real games against the Marlins, which is something the players enjoyed after being cooped up in a hotel or working out without a minor league season the entire summer due to the coronavirus pandemic shutdown and enforced health protocols.
“I thought the progress that we made in instructional league was incredible,” Barrett said. “We were very efficient. We felt like we had a really good plan going in on how we wanted to go to work with the boys and make the most of that time. Scheduling those games and getting the opportunity to play an opposing organization was huge on so many levels. The organization felt like the (camp) gave them hope in a lot of ways. It encouraged them to get after it more by just having that opportunity to play against the Marlins organization, to understand that this is not going to be a permanent deal. We are going to be fine. We are going to be back in action soon.”
This was especially true for the Venezuelan catchers - Murzi, Perez and Pineda - who all had to work out, study and practice while staying in a team hotel in South Florida due to travel restrictions preventing them from returning to their native country for several months despite a canceled season.
“All of our hearts in the organization went out to families that couldn’t be together during that time for all the reasons,” Barrett said. “It’s a story about what players go through that a lot of people may not realize. These kids were training in the hotel, they were working together. As an organization, our coaches were checking in at the hotel making sure that there was nothing that we weren’t doing that we should have been doing. We were on top of it. They were on top of it.”
An amazing facet of their training Barrett shared is that the players shot their own video of baseball workouts.
“It was really remarkable how well they did,” Barrett said. “They were working together to make sure that they were getting the work, flipping to each other, throwing to each other. It was just a great example of teamwork.
“They were taking the video because of protocol. They were working to get better, young kids in the hotel, it was really encouraging. It’s a credit to the scouts. It’s a credit to the Nationals organization, the men that we select. It was a lot of pride for us as an organization to see the boys working like that. Their behavior was exemplary.”
Barrett noticed how these young catchers transitioned from their hotel workouts to instructional league without missing a beat. Then, when they saw that camp was running its course, these players didn’t coast to the end of October. They kept working hard, as if the schedule was going to keep going through the next month.
“For them, they never stopped, they finished strong,” Barrett said. “They ran through the finish line. That was something that we talked about. They were getting closer to being able to finally go home. They never lost their focus.”
Barrett says this commitment to work ethic - a focus on getting better with each game - will pay dividends for these young players once spring training begins, hopefully in February or March.
“Murzi, Pineda and Perez, speaking of the time they had to spend in the hotel and then the opportunity they had, they took full advantage of it,” Barrett said. “You could tell that the opportunity for them to be able to see their families after such a long period of time confined in the hotel, they were excited. They were excited about the opportunity to play. For 19- to 21-year-old kids, it was really encouraging to see how well they stayed focused throughout the end of camp. It was really nice.”
Next, we will break down what each of these individual catchers were working on and what strengths they bring to the roster.