Kratz working to gain comfort with knuckleball
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Erik Kratz's chances of cracking the Blue Jays' 25-man roster could very well come down to his ability to catch knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.
Toronto has veteran Dioner Navarro penciled in as the starting catcher this season, but the backup job will involve a competition between Kratz and Josh Thole. The Blue Jays aren't expected to use Navarro behind the plate when Dickey is on the mound, which means a deciding factor for the second job will be that elusive knuckleball.
Kratz spent a week working with Dickey during the offseason to become acclimated with the pitch, and the two were once again paired up during the first day of camp.
"[Dickey] handcuffed him a few times today, that's to be expected," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We'll see how it all plays out. We like [both Kratz and Thole], but a big part of it is handling Dickey."
The initial belief was that the Blue Jays acquired Kratz this past offseason to serve as a depth option in the Minor Leagues. That no longer appears to be the case, and the 33-year-old has a very realistic shot at making the Opening Day roster.
There has been plenty of praise for Kratz within the organization this week, and his offensive upside is one of the main reasons why. The native of Pennsylvania hit nine home runs in just 68 games with the Phillies last season, and the year before, he posted an impressive .809 OPS as a backup.
Those are major selling points, but more than anything else, it's the knuckleball which should prove to be the difference one way or the other.
"It's really all about the reps for something like that," Kratz said. "For me, it's just a matter of not pushing it too much, not trying to be too perfect. Just trying to sit there and wait for it to come to me. A couple of them, I waited for them to come to me and it really got there. The more reps I can get for myself, the more success I'll have with him."