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Herrmann knows flexibility key to roster spot

MLB.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Last season, catcher Chris Herrmann found his way onto the D-backs' Opening Day roster in part because of what he could offer a relatively unsettled outfield. He played 24 games in the outfield on a team that used 11 outfielders over the course of the season.

David Peralta and A.J. Pollock led the pack with over 100 games each, and they'll reprise their roles in left and center, respectively, but the players next in terms of games played in the outfield last season, Gregor Blanco and J.D. Martinez, have both moved on with Steven Souza Jr. coming over from the Rays to be the everyday right fielder.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Last season, catcher Chris Herrmann found his way onto the D-backs' Opening Day roster in part because of what he could offer a relatively unsettled outfield. He played 24 games in the outfield on a team that used 11 outfielders over the course of the season.

David Peralta and A.J. Pollock led the pack with over 100 games each, and they'll reprise their roles in left and center, respectively, but the players next in terms of games played in the outfield last season, Gregor Blanco and J.D. Martinez, have both moved on with Steven Souza Jr. coming over from the Rays to be the everyday right fielder.

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"It looks a lot different this year," Herrmann said of the outfield outlook. "Our outfield is pretty stacked this year, which is great. I'm excited to see those guys run some balls down, swing the bats. I know David and Pollock, even Souza, had great years last year, and just to have all three of those guys in the starting lineup is going to be phenomenal. Then you've got guys like [Yasmany] Tomas and [Jarrod] Dyson who are going to see some playing time as well."

Herrmann will always earn his bread and butter behind the plate, and though he may not expect to start many games in the outfield grass, his flexibility to plug in throughout the game represents valuable versatility on the D-backs' roster. Of the four players to spend any time catching last season, only Chris Iannetta played another position, logging one inning at third base.

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"I think that's one of the only reasons why they would even consider carrying three catchers," Herrmann said of the value he offers. "If I'm on the bench, or even if I'm starting the game catching, I can always go in the outfield and hold my own out there."

The relatively rare three-catcher model worked well for the D-backs, and for a team that got to the Division Series for the first time in six years, there's an element of not wanting to fix what ain't broke.

"Having three catchers last year was a huge luxury for me," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. "We managed it. Our players played hard. Nobody tired out. Being able to hold onto that third catcher gave me a lot of versatility, and it's something I got used to, I can tell you that for sure."

The arrangement worked to Herrmann's benefit, as he saw nearly double the amount of playing time he'd had in parts of previous big league seasons.

"It was different, I can tell you that," Herrmann said. "With my role, I was playing outfield, I played a little first base, I caught Robbie Ray a lot last year. It was fun. We had a great year. I worked well with Robbie, [catcher Jeff] Mathis was working well with [Zack] Greinke, and Iannetta was [catching] all the other guys, basically. It was a good combination -- obviously it worked for us."

Video: ARI@SD: Herrmann nabs Aybar at second to end the 7th

Herrmann started 18 of Ray's 28 games over the season, and Ray had his most successful season to date, posting a 15-5 record and a 2.89 ERA while striking out 12.1 per nine innings, against 3.9 walks per nine.

"Robbie was just comfortable with me behind the plate, and we worked pretty well together," Herrmann said. "We were on the same page for the most part. He ended up having a really good season, and I don't think he really wanted to change anything."

Herrmann has caught a different pitcher every start and every bullpen session this spring. That's mostly Lovullo's attempt to get all the catchers and pitchers familiar with each other, but it also reflects Herrmann's eagerness to improve his game, pick brains, maintain his versatility, and build his wealth of knowledge as he fights to remain on the roster.

"I'm definitely competing for a spot," Herrmann said. "I never come into Spring Training and feel that I've got a guaranteed spot in the big leagues. I feel like I have to work for everything. I have to really bust my tail and prove to the team that I belong in the big leagues. It's always a grind, and I prefer it that way. I don't ever just want to seem like things are going to be easy for me."

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Chris Herrmann