SARASOTA -- There were times when Caleb Joseph would spend hours in the batting cage after the final pitch, looking for a release after another frustrating game at the plate. Joseph, who did not record an RBI in 2016, said Tuesday he's ready to put last year behind him and isn't stressing about proving himself immediately.
"You want to get off to a good start, but I don't come into spring feeling like there's a monkey or a gorilla or a host of gorillas on my back," Joseph said. "I really don't. I know I'm a valuable part of this team, period. I'm not going in scared or nervous or shaking if I don't get a hit my first at-bat. I believe in myself way too much to feel that way."
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Joseph, who will be the backup catcher to Welington Castillo, works well with the pitching staff, and will help Castillo get acclimated to the new staff this spring. He's also hoping to see some continued progression offensively.
"I think a lot of it is technique-wise. There were certain aspects that weren't allowing me to be successful as often [last year]," Joseph said.
"Certain guys do certain things and really try to keep the bat in the zone as long as possible. I was in and out of the zone. And when you're in and out of the zone, you only have a really small margin of error. And these guys up here are really good and their whole objective is to get you to miss in that margin of error. You look at guys like Manny [Machado], even [Mark] Trumbo, and their bat is in the zone for a really long time, allowing them to have more room for error. And that's all you are trying to create."
Joseph, who was arbitration eligible for the first time this year, lost his case earlier this month and will make $700,000 in 2017. He said there's no hard feelings about going to arbitration.
"I don't feel like the relationship changed at all. And I did want to say that, because it was a very straight-forward, factual trial. I heard some horror stories from people about how bad the experience can be, but for me it was not that bad," Joseph said. "I'm glad about that. But the main thing is moving forward to 2017 and being here, and I'm very excited about that. I've been doing a lot of hard work, mentally and physically. I feel really good, and I'm really excited about what '17 is going to hold."