15th career start behind the plate? A no-no!

'Huge milestone' validates Collins' catching credentials

April 15th, 2021

CHICAGO -- Being behind the plate for 's first career no-hitter during an 8-0 White Sox victory over Cleveland on Wednesday night was a moment catcher never will forget.

But that memory goes deeper than Rodón’s brilliance or Collins handling a no-hitter for the first time ever as a baseball player. It becomes somewhat of a referendum on Collins' growth as a catcher.

“Yeah, huge milestone for me,” said Collins, who made just his 15th career start behind the plate. “There’s a ton of people who have said I would never catch in a big league game. I would just be a first baseman/designated hitter.

“Just the work that I put in the last couple of years and the last six, seven years. And then learning from guys like … I can’t give enough credit to [James] McCann, Yas [Yasmani Grandal] and these guys who have helped me through this. I feel extremely good behind the plate right now and obviously tonight pretty good.”

Collins, 26, has done everything the White Sox have asked of him since he was taken 10th overall in the 2016 Draft. He has improved his physical conditioning, worked diligently at all aspects of catching and even changed his offensive approach to be more aggressive earlier in the counts, while demonstrating an exceptional batting eye.

Those changes produced a high enough level of confidence that Collins said in March he was 100 percent deserving to be part of the Opening Day roster and it would be a mistake not to take him. He has backed up those words.

“This was the first camp that he probably believed he could earn his way on the club,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said of Collins, pointing out he was given that information by a number of front office and Minor League coordinators who knew Collins well. “That’s what they told me, he could win this job and he did it with his bat and with his glove and with his thinking. He’s very impressive, took all the information he gets and works the game plan.”

“It was obviously a special moment. Going to be hard to recreate that again,” said Rodón, who worked with great pace on the mound and didn’t shake off Collins. “We were on the same page. Whatever he put down, I was throwing. And you can tell, he's vastly improved defensively catching. He's always been able to hit, always. But his blocking and his pitch-framing, they've grown quite a bit.”

There was no communication between Collins and Rodón in between innings, aside from a "That a boy, Carlos" as they were walking off the field. Collins didn’t have much interaction with pitching coach Ethan Katz or other coaches. He was laser-focused on the hitters ahead with each inning, and with Rodón’s unhittable stuff, their game plan worked to perfection.

“I don’t know if you saw the fastballs he was throwing, they had a lot of swing and misses on that,” Collins said. “He didn’t really throw his slider too much. He’s usually a big-time heavy slider guy. Tonight we were blowing fastballs by guys. He was up to 98 [mph] in that last inning after 100-plus pitches. He’s feeling good right there and everything was working.

“When we were through six perfect I started to get a little bit nervous. And it was a good nervous, it wasn’t like, ‘Please don’t mess up’ nervous. Obviously making sure that we are making the right calls and doing our best to give Carlos the best opportunity to go out there and dominate and that’s what we did tonight.”

Rodón retired the first 25 Indians but lost the perfect game when he hit Roberto Pérez with a back-foot slider on a 1-2 pitch. Collins just focused on the next two hitters, finishing off the no-hitter and adding another notch in his impressive catching development.

Collins' 15 games caught before catching this no-hitter are tied for the fifth-fewest before catching a no-hitter in the Modern Era (since 1900), according to Elias.

“I’ve never caught a no-hitter before,” Collins said. “That was the most incredible thing that I’ve ever been a part of behind the plate. I remember watching it last year with [Lucas] Giolito. I was nervous on the bench last year, thinking about what McCann was doing and I felt it tonight. I was about as nervous as I’ve ever been back there.

“Obviously, hats off to Carlos, but our communication that we did before the game and everything like that was amazing. There is nothing that can ever take this away from me.”