TEMPE, Ariz. -- This spring, Martin Maldonado has been adjusting to a new team -- but also an old one.In 2004, the Angels selected Maldonado in the 27th round of the Draft out of high school in Puerto Rico, but the young catcher spent only three seasons in Rookie ball
TEMPE, Ariz. -- This spring, Martin Maldonado has been adjusting to a new team -- but also an old one.
In 2004, the Angels selected Maldonado in the 27th round of the Draft out of high school in Puerto Rico, but the young catcher spent only three seasons in Rookie ball with the organization before being released in January 2007. Two weeks later, he signed with the Brewers, who gave him a second chance and helped him develop into an elite defender.
Maldonado reached the Majors in 2011 and spent the next six seasons with Milwaukee, primarily serving as the backup to All-Star Jonathan Lucroy. His career came full circle when the Halos acquired him and Minor League pitcher Andrew Gagnon from the Brewers in exchange for Jett Bandy in December.
"It's a dream come true," Maldonado said Monday in Spanish. "Being here now with this opportunity, it's not a small thing."
Asked why the Angels decided to release him a decade ago, Maldonado said, "Immature things that I did. They were things that aren't even worth remembering. The most important thing is that I'm here again, and they had the confidence to bring me back."
Maldonado, 30, has posted a .217/.299/.342 slash line over his career, but he's better known for his cannon of a throwing arm and pitch-framing abilities. He has a caught-stealing rate of 35 percent and has been an above-average pitch framer since he became a full-time Major Leaguer in 2012, according to StatCorner.com.
"We had seen him when he was a kid when he was with us, but what he evolved into was really a front-line catcher," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's a premium defensive player, and you can see it. He has an elite arm, but the real impact he's going to have is his ability to receive the ball and bring a game plan in. He's very astute. He's making a quick study of our pitchers."
Maldonado will likely get his first opportunity to be the primary catcher this season, though Carlos Perez also figures to receive plenty of starts. Still, Maldonado's superior defense and on-base skills have put him in position to be the Halos' top backstop in 2017.
"They haven't talked to me [about it]," Maldonado said. "But every time that I have the opportunity to be on the field, I'm going to give it my best on every pitch, try to win games and help this team reach the playoffs."
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.