Gomes, Suzuki learn to share catching duties

June 1st, 2019

CINCINNATI -- The Nationals have two catchers with nearly 18 years of combined Major League experience. Through 57 games, Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki have played in 38 and 31 games, respectively. Gomes has started 33 games, Suzuki 24.

That two-pronged approach at backstop is expected to continue.

“We talked in Spring Training about it, and they’re both on board,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “For me, it’s about keeping both guys engaged.”

To that end, Martinez has kept the lines of communication open. They both have caught each of the Nationals starters, with the exception of Anibal Sanchez, who has worked only with Suzuki, and Patrick Corbin, who has worked exclusively with Gomes. Sanchez is the only Nationals starter that Gomes hasn’t caught this season.

“They both catch different guys and have done well with each one,” Martinez said. “We need them both.

Gomes started the first two games of the series against the Reds at Great American Ball Park, but with a day game on Sunday, Suzuki will get the nod in the series finale with Max Scherzer on the mound.

Up until this season, Gomes, 31, had spent his entire career in the American League, while Suzuki, 35, at least has five National League seasons under his belt.

“He knows this league a little bit more,” Gomes said. “I’m learning a lot from him, just having the communications. It’s been going well. Just trying to keep each other as fresh as we can. Other than that, it’s just anytime, getting ready to play.”

Both Gomes and Suzuki are accustomed to starting. Spitting time creates challenges with staying in a routine for themselves and the pitchers they’re working with. Gomes said it has helped that Martinez tries to communicate how the mix of starts and off-days will work for a given series.

“We both knew coming in how it was going to be,” Gomes said. “We’ve both been starters. It’s just a matter of, when games are going on, just staying as ready as you can and doing work when you’re not catching. Both of us have fallen into a good routine with that.”

To this point, neither has clamored for a full-time starting role, at least not outwardly. But both have made their case.

Suzuki was batting .309 in his past 14 starts. Gomes had hit safely in seven straight games entering Saturday’s game at Cincinnati.

“When we need to communicate, we do,” Gomes said. “You’ve got to let him manage. I don’t want to put any other thoughts in his head.”

On the mend
• Right-hander Trevor Rosenthal, who has been on the injured list with a viral infection since April 26, threw 29 pitches in a bullpen session on Saturday, and the results were encouraging.

The plan is for him to throw light toss on Sunday, then take Monday off. He’ll pitch on Tuesday with Double-A Harrisburg.

“I want to put eyes on him,” Martinez said. “He looked really good [Saturday]. He talked about wanting to put the finishing touches on, but he feels good, so let’s see where we’re at on Tuesday. He’s really close. It’s like a guy running hurdles. You get over that last hurdle, but you still have that last 10 yards to sprint. That’s where we are right now.”

Rosenthal has struggled with the Nats, with 12 earned runs in three innings over seven appearances.

• First baseman Ryan Zimmerman (plantar fasciitis in his right foot) is close to running again, but a decision will be made when the Nationals return home on Tuesday.

“When we get back, we’ll assess what’s going on,” Martinez said. “He might start running again. He said he feels good. He’s been working out.”

Zimmerman is batting .213 in 22 games. He was placed on the 10-day injured list on April 28.