Rivera-Cashner battery working for Padres
SAN DIEGO -- The more Andrew Cashner looks like an ace, the higher the stock soars for backup catcher Rene Rivera.
Rivera has been behind the plate for all three of Cashner's starts this season, including the Padres' season opener two Sundays ago against the Dodgers. He is not destined for the top job -- that belongs to Yasmani Grandal, especially as Grandal eases into being able to play back-to-back days following knee surgery last year.
But Rivera's place on the roster has perhaps never been more secure than it is now, given the way he is working with the Padres' budding ace. Though manager Bud Black will not formally say anything about Cashner having a personal catcher, it is difficult not to believe what the eyes see watching these two work together.
"Rene is a good catcher," Black said Saturday afternoon. "He catches everybody well. He's a good defensive catcher. That's not exclusive to Cash.
"But specifically to those two, it's been proven that there's been a great deal of success with those two statistically. That's hard to ignore."
Rivera, 30, is a six-year veteran who has bounced around since 2001, from the Mariners' organization to that of the Dodgers, Mets, Yankees and Twins before arriving in San Diego last year. He has big league time in Seattle, Minnesota and San Diego, but it would be hard to argue that he has previously clicked the way he is right now with Cashner, who calls Rivera's game-calling ability "incredible."
Among other qualities, Black and Cashner on Saturday each raved about Rivera's ability to "stick" pitches. Others refer to that as "framing." Time after time during his one-hit shutout Friday night against the Tigers, Cashner hit the outside corner for called strikes. Rivera's glove was waiting -- and still -- each time.
"He's got good hands," Black said. "There's a skill-set involved with that."
Black said Rivera's "ability to stick a fastball, slider, especially with pitches with movement … with Rene, we've seen this developing the last two years. I think he's really taken it to heart."
A year ago, the Padres pitched to a 3.00 ERA in games when Rivera was behind the plate, and since the start of the 2013 season, Cashner's ERA with Rivera as catcher is 1.43.
The Padres are making no promises, but it is increasingly difficult to imagine Rivera not being behind the plate for Cashner's starts.
"It's a long season, but I like what I've seen," Black said Saturday afternoon. "They seem to be in sync as far as pitch selection."
Most other things, too.