Rockies test Goodman at the plate and behind it

May 19th, 2024

SAN FRANCISCO -- Rockies rookie revealed skills not seen at the Major League level during Saturday afternoon’s 14-4 loss to the Giants at Oracle Park.

Goodman also accomplished a couple of seemingly mundane offensive feats that he curiously hadn’t in the Majors this season.

Goodman, who played catcher with some regularity at the University of Memphis before the Rockies drafted him in the fourth round in 2021, made his first Major League appearance behind the plate, after playing first base and the outfield in all his previous defensive appearances.

“It was definitely cool, doing something for the first time,” said Goodman, 24, who caught because Elias Díaz has missed the last three games waiting for a left hand injury to heal, and Jacob Stallings sat after taking a pitch to the right forearm in Friday night’s loss. “I enjoyed it. I had fun. I would love to have gone out there and gotten a win, but it was good to actually do it.”

Goodman’s performance was notable only in the struggles of the pitchers Goodman caught. Starter Ty Blach lasted three innings and surrendered seven hits and six runs -- after posting a 3.00 ERA in five previous appearances this season -- and final reliever Nick Mears needed 42 pitches to manage two outs in the bottom of the eighth.

With the bat, Goodman’s Saturday was oddly notable. He had a leadoff double in the Rockies’ best inning, a three-run third, and an RBI single in the sixth. Before that, Goodman was 2-for-21 (.095), with both hits going for home runs -- one during an eighth-inning comeback in a 10-9 victory over the Padres on April 25, the other at home against the Rangers on May 11. Goodman’s 446-foot average home run distance was tied with Gary Sánchez for the longest in the Majors for players with a minimum two homers.

The Rockies have been testing Goodman’s bat in the Majors. They called Goodman up for his first 23 Major League games last season. This year they recalled him from Triple-A Albuquerque (.298, seven homers, 22 RBIs) on April 24 as they sent down Michael Toglia -- who had a power-or-little-else Major League stat line (four homers but just five total hits in 15 games).

“I’m not getting a ton of at-bats now but that’s no excuse,” Goodman said. “I’ve just got to go up there and make sure I’m on time. When I’m on time, I can be a really good hitter. I was just going up there today trying to make sure I was on time, seeing the ball at the top of the zone. I got a few pitches to hit, which is always nice.

“I’m trying to keep everything short, everything under control. There are definitely at-bats where I feel like I’m getting too big, trying to do too much.”

Goodman will have to hit with more consistency to forge a Major League future. When the Rockies begin a three-game series at Oakland on Tuesday, they expect to activate first baseman Kris Bryant and outfielder Nolan Jones from the injured list (each with a low back strain). No decisions have been speculated from the staff, but Goodman is a logical candidate to be optioned for regular Triple-A playing time.

But the fact manager Bud Black was OK with Goodman starting at catcher was an indication that he will be given chances to earn his opportunities.

In the Minors, Goodman has 79 home runs in 282 games -- power that led the Rockies to move him around the diamond to enhance his chances of receiving a callup. Catching was put on the backburner last year, and he appeared in just 13 Minor League games at the position.

This year at Spring Training, the Rockies took a longer look at Goodman behind the plate, and Black, bench coach Mike Redmond (a former Major League catcher) and bullpen catcher Aaron Muñoz (a former Minor League backstop who assists with coaching catchers) liked the sight. The Rockies began considering him, along with No. 9 prospect Drew Romo, Willie MacIver and Braxton Fulford as part of the picture behind Díaz and Stallings.

“Overall, he brings calmness, and he has a good feel for the game, game-calling, and in the technical aspects of catching, he’s a solid performer," Black said. "Game-calling and blocking, and he throws and receives fine. It’s there. It just hasn’t been talked about or gotten a lot of attention.”