VIERA, Fla. — The question pops up every spring: Who’s the Nationals’ emergency catcher? The need never actually arises, but every club wants to have a plan in place, just in case the worst-case scenario presents itself during the course of a game.
And as was the case last year under Davey Johnson, Bryce Harper made sure new manager Matt Williams knows he’s making his services available. Jayson Werth also volunteered to do it.
Williams’ response: “I’ve told them that will not be happening.”
Both Harper and Werth, for the record, were catchers in their formative years. Harper won the Golden Spikes Award as college baseball’s best overall player in 2010 as a catcher for the College of Southern Nevada. Werth, meanwhile, was drafted by the Orioles in 1997 as a catcher and played 403 minor-league games behind the plate before converting to an outfielder.
Williams, though, has no interest in risking either star’s long-term health by having Harper or Werth strap on the tools of ignorance again.
So who would actually be the Nationals’ emergency catcher? Williams said Danny Espinosa and Tyler Moore also volunteered … and the manager didn’t turn down either of their services.
“We hope something like that would never be needed, because (it means) you’ve got an injury,” Williams said. “Something’s gone bad during the game if you’re down to your emergency catcher. And you don’t want to get in that spot. But those guys have stepped up and said they’d do it.”
Since he was sort of on the subject, Williams also was asked which of his position players he’d let pitch in an emergency or blowout scenario?
“Adam LaRoche wants to be that,” Williams said, echoing the first baseman’s long-stated hopes of pitching in a big-league game. “I don’t know. Coming off elbow surgery? I don’t know. … He wants to be that guy, but we’ll see. Hopefully we never get to that spot, either.”
Some managers, Johnson included, insist they would never bring in a position player to pitch, believing it’s not fair to those players and makes a mockery of the game. Williams, though, is open to the idea if it makes sense both in the short-term and long-term context.
“If the game is completely out of reach and we’re taxing our bullpen, there may be a need for that,” he said. “We look at winning today’s game, but if there’s simply no chance we can win today’s game, I don’t want to cost us tomorrow’s game, too. Again, that’ll be an in-game, last-second decision. But I can see a need for it. That need arises from time to time. Hopefully we’ll never get there.”