MacArthur: Navarro impressing teammates, coaches

Scott MacArthur
4/3/2014 8:40:43 PM
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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida – Heading into Thursday night's action, Dioner Navarro had caught 14 innings combined from starters Drew Hutchison and Mark Buehrle. Neither allowed a run; both pitched with purpose.

The catcher is the only position player on the field the entire defence can see; the others pick up the vibe the backstop puts down and after Wednesday night's 3-0 win over Tampa Bay, Jose Bautista made it clear he notices a difference this year over last.

"I'll tell you what, I could really get used to the chemistry that I see between our catcher and our pitchers," said Bautista. "If they manage to keep that going for an extended period of time, we're going to have a lot of fun playing this year."

One can draw a number of conclusions from the statement. The first, and most basic, is that Bautista is commenting on what he's witnessed from his spot in right field.

One could also deduce Bautista is firing some verbal retaliation at ex-teammate J.P. Arencibia, who suffered through a dreadful offensive season while continuing to struggle defensively and with his handling of the pitching staff.

Arencibia, in a media scrum last month, said it was "refreshing" to be in Texas because the atmosphere was "baseball emphasized." Later in the same scrum, he appeared to call Toronto's leadership into question.

"Elvis (Andrus,) (Adrian) Beltre, you have these guys who are leaders and have been around for a while. They make it easy. It's not like you come in here and you're walking on egg shells."

While this falls short of what should be qualified as a verbal spat, there's little doubt that Bautista, as informed a player as there is, hadn't heard or read Arencibia's comments.

Regardless, Navarro is making an impression.

"Even during spring training, he came in with a real interest in learning the pitchers as fast as he could and I think it shows right now," said pitching coach Pete Walker. "He spent the spring getting a feel for these guys and I think the evidence was (Wednesday) night with Mark. I think they worked great together."

"Bottom line is, the pitcher's got to make the pitch, but if they have confidence in what the catcher is throwing down, that's one of those little things where they have more conviction," said manager John Gibbons.

In fairness to Arencibia, it must be pointed out that the Blue Jays used 13 different starting pitchers during an injury-riddled 2013 campaign. Names like Ramon Ortiz, Aaron Laffey and Chien-Ming Wang weren't long-term solutions, regardless of who was behind the plate.

But the game preparation, the ability to work smart as much as work hard, is setting Navarro apart.

"I won't go there," said Walker, when asked to compare Navarro to Arencibia. "It's a different feel behind the plate. In the past, we've had some good catchers here and he just brings a different element this year that I've enjoyed watching and working with so far."

If Arencibia's departure was considered addition by subtraction, Navarro's arrival has more than filled the void. It's calmed the pitching staff.

Janssen Update

Casey Janssen, who's been seen working his weighted ball program in the clubhouse over the last couple of days, threw off flat ground from roughly 120 feet on Thursday.

He's being careful as he works his way back from an abdominal/back strain.

"I'm trying to not piss it off," said Janssen. "It might if I do certain things but I'm staying in that comfort level and I haven't pissed it off. It could be completely gone but I haven't tested it enough to know. I don't think today is the day to test it."

Janssen is eligible to come off the disabled list on April 13 in Baltimore. It's too early to predict whether he'll be back on that date.

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