Gomes, Suzuki buying into shared catcher role
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- How exactly the Nationals plan to split playing time at catcher between Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki will be determined over the course of the season by manager Dave Martinez, but both players have arrived to camp fully buying into the idea of sharing the role.
"I don't even care," Suzuki said. "At this point in my career, picking a team that has a chance to win a World Series is very important to me … however many games you want me to catch, if I can help the team win every time I'm out there, that's great."
Added Gomes: "That's just something that if we make that a [big] deal, this team is not going to go forward. I just think we need to both be ready whenever our names get called."
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Just six catchers in the Majors received enough plate appearances last season to qualify for the batting title in 2018. Only 15 recorded at least 400 plate appearances, including Gomes, who got 435 in 112 games with the Indians. Suzuki compiled 388 plate appearances in 105 games with the Braves.
While no one on the Nats will commit to any specific number of games, Gomes will likely serve as the primary starter, with Suzuki considered more of a 1B instead of a true backup catcher. That was how the Nats sold it to both backstops when they acquired them this offseason, first signing Suzuki as a free agent and then trading for Gomes. Both players immediately bought in.
It should make life easy for Martinez, who might split playing time based on opposing matchups, which catcher works better with a certain starter, who has the hot hand or who needs some time off. Martinez hinted that he would not be afraid to use one of his catchers to pinch-hit if he is the best option off the bench, even if there is not a third true backstop on the roster. (Wilmer Difo, get your emergency catcher's glove ready).
"You see a lot of teams, you don't have those guys who can catch 150 games, 160 games anymore," Martinez said. "You don't. To have two guys like that on your roster, it's a really good problem to have."
Regular lineup in store for 2019
Martinez wants to use a more consistent lineup in 2019 after he routinely shuffled and changed the Nationals' order in his first year as manager. Some of that was by necessity due to injury, some a result of Martinez trying to spark an offense that struggled in the first half.
But Martinez also attempted some new ideas previous Nationals managers had not: hitting the pitcher eighth -- common around the National League, but not in club history -- and dropping Trea Turner down to sixth in the lineup.
This year, Martinez said he would like to have a more set lineup, which will likely include Turner near the top along with Adam Eaton.
"A lot of guys talk about sequences and how they pitch guys in certain situations," Martinez said. "And if a guy is hitting behind one guy constantly, you kind of are going to know what pitches you are going to get. So for the most part, I want to kind of keep our lineup the same. Like I said, it all depends on who is off and who's not and which guys are really swinging the bats well and who aren't."