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Donning 2 masks, Chirinos focused on safety

Rangers catcher ready to make adjustments in 2020 season
@Sullivan_Ranger
July 8, 2020

ARLINGTON -- Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos has the unenviable task of setting up with a hitter standing in front of him and an umpire crouching behind him. That’s why Chirinos is trying to wear two masks during the Rangers' Summer Camp intrasquad games. He is wearing his regular catcher’s gear,

ARLINGTON -- Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos has the unenviable task of setting up with a hitter standing in front of him and an umpire crouching behind him.

That’s why Chirinos is trying to wear two masks during the Rangers' Summer Camp intrasquad games. He is wearing his regular catcher’s gear, of course, but also the recommended face mask that everybody is being asked to don during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chirinos admitted he’s concerned about being in close proximity to the umpire and batters during games. He wants to see if he can handle the additional mask and still maintain the high level of concentration needed at his position.

“It's going to be a challenge for us in that area to keep distance, or to keep from talking between each other,” Chirinos said. “I'm the guy who's asking the umpires questions during the game, the batters always say hello to me, I say hello back. So that's something I need to figure out: how I'm going to deal with this.”

Umpires normally set up right behind Chirinos and often put their hands on his back for balance, but everyone may benefit if they can find a better alternative for this season.

“I don't know what that's going to look like, but right now, everybody's adjusting and trying to find a way to get this season going," Chirinos said.

Wearing the additional mask is optional for catchers, but manager Chris Woodward said others should at least consider it.

“If Robbie feels comfortable, it is something we can talk about with our catchers,” Woodward said. “Regardless, if it is our own team or another team, I applaud Robbie for that.”

Chirinos is dealing with multiple family situations during this difficult time. He is separated from his parents -- Roberto and Marbella -- who are back home in Venezuela.

“My parents went back to Venezuela and were going to come back for Opening Day,” Chirinos said. “But everything happened so fast, and they are still there. It's been tough. It's been something we didn't expect. But there has been no time to do anything. Venezuela is still in lockdown.

“My dad is 69. He has health issues. So, even if Venezuela opens up flights, I don't think it will be good time for them to come here. It's been really difficult, for a lot of reasons. It's hard not having them here, but I have to trust in God.”

Chirinos and his wife, Heidy, make their home in Heath, Texas, just east of Dallas, with their sons David (12), and Julian (4). David should be in his Little League prime, but that’s not happening this summer.

“My wife and I have been as crazy as you can be with this,” Chirinos said. “We made the difficult decision to not allow David to play summer baseball. We just didn't think it would be safe. The only place I'm going is to the stadium. My wife is doing all the shopping on Instacart. The only place I go other than the stadium is to get gas to go to the stadium.

“I told her over Fourth of July weekend, the only way we are going to get to play is if we sacrifice. I hope everybody on the team is doing the same. I know we are not perfect. But we have to try to do everything to keep safe. This is what we do. This is what we love. We love to play the game. And we want to play for the fans. Hopefully we can. And then, why not win the World Series?”

Chirinos played in the World Series last season with the Astros, before deciding to return to the Rangers as a free agent. He agreed to a one-year, $5.75 million contract for this season, and the Rangers hold a $6.5 million option for 2021 with a $1 million buyout.

Chirinos is expected to be the Rangers' No. 1 catcher, with Jeff Mathis and Jose Trevino in reserve. The Rangers are also giving veteran Blake Swihart a chance to catch, and Tim Federowicz and Nick Ciuffo are in camp as non-roster invites. Add in rookie Sam Huff, Texas' No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline, and the club has seven catchers in its 60-man player pool.

“I’ve said it before, I don’t know how my option is going to look for next year,” Chirinos said. “God has that, if he is willing for me to come back to this team, I would love to be here. I don’t know, we have to wait and see how the season will play out and how the team will approach my option.”

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.