Roger Mooney covers the Tampa Bay Rays for The Tampa Tribune, TBO.com and News Channel 8. He has covered the Rays since their first season in 1998, including 11 years for the Bradenton Herald. Roger has also covered Florida, South Florida and Florida State football, the Bucs and the Lightning.
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Maddon likes Navarro/Shoppach combo
Posted Dec 4, 2009 by Roger Mooney
Updated Dec 4, 2009 at 06:26 PM
Gregg Zaun is no longer an option for the Rays once the catcher agreed to a contract Friday with the Brewers, meaning the Rays, for the moment, have Dioner Navarro and newly acquired Kelly Shoppach behind the plate.
The Rays have until Dec. 12 to tender Navarro, who is in his second year of being arbitration-eligible. With Shoppach, who is also arbitration-eligible, standing to make around $2.5 million next season, there is the possibility the Rays could non-tender Navarro or try to trade him. Otherwise, the Rays would commit around $6 million to one position.
If they stay with the two, the Rays will have a combination that manager Joe Maddon finds attractive.
“I think it can be kind of a really great combination, actually. Those are two pretty good catchers right there. Navie throws well. Shoppach throws well. I’m hearing Shoppach is a really good preparer prior to each series,” Maddon said Friday.
Maddon said it is too early to tell how he will divide the playing time. A lot will depend on what Navarro shows in spring training.
Navarro, an All-Star in 2008, slumped in 2009. His batting average dropped from .295 to .218 mainly because the switch-hitter couldn’t hit right-handed pitchers. Navarro began the season as a .261 hitter from the left-side, batted .182 against righties in 2009.
Maddon said a lot of that can be attributed Navarro hitting too many fly balls, which became outs, and swinging at pitches outside the strike zone.
“Get his eye back,” Maddon said. “He’s just been chasing way too much. When he came on-board (in 2006) he wasn’t a chaser like that. There’s ways to work on it to get him back to where he was.”
Maddon is, not surprisingly, confident Navarro can work himself back to the way he played during the first half of 2008 when he hit .310 (including .308 against righties) and was named to the American League All-Star team.
“I just know he’s going to be better this year,” Maddon said. “Once we get him rolling, if we get him off to a better start where he doesn’t get into a hole he feels he has to dig out all the time, guys get in that situation than they try to do too much and all of a sudden it snowballs into a negative situation. I think the key with him is getting him off to a good start. I’m confident he’s a better left-hand hitter than you saw. I think he’s a better hitter, period.”
Shoppach is coming off a down year with the Indians where, according to Maddon, he chased too many pitches out of the strike zone, as well.
“We got get him to organize his (strike) zone,” Maddon said. “There’s a lot to work with both of these guys. If we accomplish the work we want to we got a pretty good catcher between the two.”
- Roger Mooney