Nola garnering 'good reviews' as backstop

Middle infielder working diligently behind plate at camp

March 9th, 2017
Austin Nola, a middle infielder, has been getting reps at catcher this spring. (AP)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- It's perhaps not the position he'll play for the rest of his career, but for this year, anyway, the Marlins' experiment with behind the plate continues.

Nola worked four innings as catcher in Thursday's 2-2 tie with the Nationals at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. He continues to impress with his natural skills and his interest in adding the position to his repertoire.

"He's been good," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "[We've got] good reviews for him from the pitchers. Actually, the umpire came over and said he was good to work behind, gives a good look at the ball and things like that."

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The middle infielder has a long way to go before he can follow in the footsteps of Marlins starting catcher J.T. Realmuto, himself a converted middle infielder, but Mattingly said he sees definite progress toward the goal.

"I like him back there," Mattingly said. "And I think we like the fact that he can do so much, that could be something down the road."

Taken in the fifth round of the 2012 Draft by the Marlins, Nola finished up the '16 season -- his fifth in the Minor Leagues -- with Triple-A New Orleans. He played second base, shortstop and third, and he finished with a slash line of .261/.308/.376.

"We'll keep him behind the plate for probably most of this season, knowing that he's got the other side of him, too," Mattingly said. "And that's not going to go away."

But for now, Nola's future with the Marlins remains behind the plate.

"We want to give him a really good chance to pick up that position," Mattingly said.