Nats Suzuki looking to build relationships in spring

Nats Suzuki looking to build relationships in spring
February 6, 2013, 3:00 pm
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Catcher Kurt Suzuki was able to provide a significant boost to the Nationals’ offense after coming over in a late-season trade with the Oakland Athletics in 2012. He solidified a position after a laundry list of catcher injuries and hit .301 in the season’s final 26 games. Even with the return of Wilson Ramos, all signs point to Suzuki retaining the starting job this spring.

Entering the season as the likely starter will give Suzuki a chance to work with the pitching staff from day one, rather than learn on the fly like he did last season. Suzuki looks forward to Nationals camp to get to know the pitching staff on a personal level. Ask him about working with pitchers and he will share a philosophy that goes beyond catching them on the field.

“The spring training part where it’s not games every day is where you can really get to know guys and hang out with guys. I’m a big believer in relationships, building relationships with different pitchers. That’s how you really get to know them personally and you can understand them. It’s not just players, it is about people,” he said.

“You have to learn those relationships so you can get their respect and have a mutual respect for each other. I think having spring training will definitely better the relationships and allow me to understand them as pitchers a little better.”

Suzuki wasn’t afforded this opportunity after being added to a first place team in early August, a club that was nearing its goal of winning the division and didn’t have time to stop and bond. Suzuki hopes to make up for that in spring training.

“This year is going to be a little bit smoother I think, last year was kind of a crash course in learning the pitching staff. I had to learn it pretty quick just because of the pennant race and the playoffs and all that stuff, but I think everything went well.”

The staff will be a little bit different for Suzuki and the Nationals in 2013. Edwin Jackson was replaced by Dan Haren - who Suzuki caught years ago when a part of the Athletics’ organization - and Stephen Strasburg will be more of a mainstay in the rotation. All in all, it was one of the best rotations in baseball last season and could be even better with one more year of experience.

Suzuki knows they are good and now all of baseball does too. The Nats’ catcher joked how he hears about it frequently these days.

“It’s just a good pitching staff, you get asked about it all the time it kind of gets repetitive,” he said. “It’s like, ‘they’re good, they’re really good.’”

Nationals pitchers were already excellent last season with the best staff ERA (3.40) and batting average against (.240) in the National League, and the most wins by starters (72) in the majors. Suzuki hopes that with more chemistry between staff and catcher, coupled with more experience all around, they can be even better in 2013.