WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Making the move from catcher to second base after his fourth year in the Major Leagues is a transition that Craig Biggio says helped him prolong his career and ultimately got him into the Hall of Fame.
Astros catcher Garrett Stubbs, who has been compared to Biggio because of his smaller build for a catcher, is eyeing a similar move on a part-time basis this spring with the goal of making the Opening Day roster. The Hall of Fame? That will have to wait.
Stubbs, who appeared in 11 games last year in his first Major League season, said bench coach Joe Espada told him he would be playing some second base in practice this spring, in addition to catching and the outfield. Last year, Stubbs made six starts at catcher and appeared in eight games in the outfield for the Astros. If he can add second base to his repertoire, Stubbs’ versatility would increase his chances of making the team.
“It definitely helps me having that 26th man and hopefully be that utility guy and provide a variety of things for the team in any way I can,” said Stubbs, who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 175 pounds.
Biggio, who was as an All-Star catcher before becoming a Gold Glove second baseman and eventually moving to the outfield before going back to second base, is in camp and ready to assist Stubbs. Biggio learned to play second in the offseason prior to the 1991 season on the rodeo dirt at the Astrodome with the help of former Astros second baseman Bill Doran and coach Matt Galante.
“Size-wise, he moves unbelievable,” Biggio said of Stubbs. “The more experience he gets, even just taking ground balls during batting practice, is so beneficial. So whatever you got to do, the more positions you play, the more valuable you are.”
Before he even got to camp, Stubbs had a pretty good tutor for playing the infield. He lives with A’s Gold Glove third baseman Matt Chapman in the offseason in California. Stubbs began taking ground balls with Chapman in early December after former manager AJ Hinch called him and told him he would play some second base.
“He took me through his warmup routine and what he does for ground balls,” Stubbs said. “His pre-step stance is a little bit different than most guys around the league. It’s real low with his hands out to his side. Little things that help him be who he is. Any tips he has, I’m open ears because you don’t win two Gold Gloves and two Platinum Gloves by not being the best in the league. He’s got a lot of good information and I’ll definitely keep in touch with him throughout the year for different tips.”
Stubbs (USC) and Chapman (Cal State Fullerton) played against each other in college and have the same agent in Scott Boras, which is how they became friends. They’ve been roommates for four years.
“During the season when we’re playing against each other, like last year when he came up to hit when I was catching, I gave him a quick 'hi,' but we’re not friends when we’re on the field,” Stubbs said. “When we get off the field that stuff is much different than stuff that goes on on the field. He and I both know when we’re playing against each other we’re competing and when we’re off the field, we go back to being friends.”
Stubbs hit .240 with 11 doubles, seven homers and 23 RBIs in 63 games at Triple-A last year. He was the only catcher on the 40-man roster until the club signed Dustin Garneau and Martín Maldonado in the offseason and he could fill the 26th roster spot MLB has added for 2020.
“It kind of helps being able to play different positions and keeping myself a little bit more athletic and just knowing where other positions need to be and what the mindset is,” Stubbs said. “It just helps as a field general behind the plate.”