FORT WAYNE – The TinCaps have two catchers with plenty of potential.
But deciding which one to play is a tough, for manager Jose Valentin.
It’s a good headache to have, Valentin said after a game in April.
Especially since Dane Phillips and Rodney Daal offer different perks.
Phillips is batting .302 and leads Fort Wayne (16-13) with a .906 on-base plus slugging average. The OPS factors in a player’s ability to get on base and hit for power, and an average above .900 for the Sabermetric is exceptional.
Daal is a defensive catcher. Although he’s only hitting .188, the 19-year-old has a quick move to second and works games well, Phillips said. Both players agreed they learn from one another and enjoy the competition.
It’s actually kind of fun, Daal said. When we’re catching, he gives me advice like what he sees, what I can do different, and I give him advice.
It’s just switching thoughts, and that’s always a good thing.
It’s beneficial for Valentin, who can change lineups based on what he needs for games. And it benefits pitchers who work better with one catcher over the other.
The two have come up with ways to keep themselves in game situations during their off days.
You just take your bullpen seriously and make them game-like, Phillips said. You focus in in batting practice, so when you do get to play and get in the game, you can help your team win.
Phillips has appeared in 17 games, and Daal in 13. Only one position player – Felix Cabrera, who just joined the TinCaps after a roster move early this season – has played in fewer games than the two.
But catchers have improved. And they’ve done so by watching each other play.
They did the same last season in Eugene, Ore., with the Emeralds, the short-season Class-A club for the Padres.
We’re both friends, and we help each other out and talk about hitters, pitchers, whatever, Phillips said. It’s a really unique and good working relationship. It’s been awesome so far.
It can be difficult for players at what is usually an everyday position sit out every other game or so. But both have embraced the challenge and accepted its benefits.
We’re friends, and we’re getting along really good. We’re working a lot with each other, Daal said. It’s always hard to split time. It’s hard to have one series and then be off. But I like the competition.