CHICAGO -- Victor Caratini’s crash course began with a Freddy Peralta bullpen at 11 a.m. CT. He wore catcher’s gear in Brewers hues that had just been placed in his locker by equipment manager Jason Shawger, perhaps the only person hustling around the visitors’ clubhouse on Thursday with more on his mind than Caratini. The day ended with Caratini playing the final three and a half innings of Milwaukee’s 5-4 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
So much for a breaking-in period. The Brewers sent two players to the Padres on Wednesday to acquire Caratini, 28, who traveled from Phoenix to Chicago in time to make Milwaukee’s Opening Day roster. He will serve as the Brewers’ No. 2 catcher, replacing Pedro Severino after the latter’s suspension for 80 games following a positive test for a banned substance.
“It’s going to be more difficult because [Caratini] didn’t get any time with the pitchers,” said No. 1 catcher Omar Narváez. “It’s the same thing I tried to do with ‘Sevi,’ try to help him figure everybody out and introduce him to how they like to pitch and what plans we have for this guy.
“He’ll get it. He’s a smart kid, a good kid. He likes to work a lot. I think he’s going to help.”
That feeling was mutual.
“[Narváez] was one of the first people to reach out to me after the trade happened,” Caratini said. “We’ve known each other for a long time and played against each other in the Minors when I was over here with the Cubs. So we’ve already started talking a lot. I know he’s going to help me and we’re going to continue the conversation.”
Caratini joined the Brewers in a familiar environment, having played parts of four seasons in the big leagues with the Cubs from 2017-20 before being traded to San Diego in the Yu Darvish deal. Caratini essentially was Darvish’s personal catcher, but there won’t be any similar arrangement with the Brewers, manager Craig Counsell said. Counsell prefers to start the backup catcher based on a day the regular backstop needs rest, or when there is a favorable matchup against an opposing starter. Those opportunities will be readily available since Caratini is a switch-hitter.
“Really, I think today he just needs to spend a lot of time absorbing a lot of information,” Counsell said. “He's already sat in on a bunch of meetings, he'll catch a couple of bullpens and just start the familiarization process. He can only go so fast, but that's how it works, so we'll give him time to get up to speed.”
Six innings into the season, Caratini was in the game. After the Brewers pinch-hit for Narváez in a scoring opportunity in the top of the sixth, Caratini took over at catcher and finished the game. He doubled in his lone at-bat in the eighth to set up Lorenzo Cain's sacrifice fly, which cut the Cubs' lead to one.
"He did a great job," Counsell said. "That’s, again, one of the benefits of acquiring a guy like this is you do feel like you can throw him in there because he is experienced, he knows what’s going on, he is familiar in these settings."
This season-opening, four-game series against the Cubs offers two opposing left-handers (Justin Steele on Friday and Drew Smyly on Sunday), potential opportunities for Caratini to start since Narváez bats left-handed and Caratini has historically delivered better production when batting from the right side against lefties.
“It’s definitely a challenge, but I bet on myself,” Caratini said. “I have the experience. If I just work on it, it’ll be all right.”