Salty's shoulder leaves catching in flux
Backstop could be in platoon with Teagarden early on
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Manager Ron Washington was able to sum up quickly where the Rangers stand on picking an Opening Day roster."Our outfield is set, our infield is set and we have an idea of our pitching," Washington said. And the catching? "We'll keep those guys hoping behind the dish until we make a statement," Washington said. "They don't seem to be fretting it. We have until April 5 ... we'll be all right by then." The Rangers are reaching the halfway and their catching situation remains the biggest unresolved issue in camp. Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden continue to compete for the No. 1 spot with no clear winner yet. The only change from the beginning of camp is that there may never be a clear winner. The Rangers have openly discussed the possibility of having Saltalamacchia and Teagarden share the position. "It could be ... it's something we've talked about," general manager Jon Daniels said. "I'm not one to say there is one way of doing things. Some would say you have to have a clear No. 1, some would say you have to have at least one veteran ... to me it's all about the individual." The Angels have not had a No. 1 catcher since Bengie Molina left as a free agent after the 2005 season. Over the past two years, Jeff Mathis and Mike Napoli -- both right-handed hitters -- have split the job almost evenly. Mathis has started 168 games in the past two seasons while Napoli has started 155.
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The Rangers could end up with a similar arrangement between Saltalamacchia and Teagarden."Right now they are going to continue to compete until we decide what's what," Washington said. Currently, Saltalamacchia is unable to compete because of pain in his surgically repaired right shoulder. Saltalamacchia was scratched from the lineup on Tuesday because of the problem and hasn't played since then. He did go through a full workout on Friday and is hoping to play in a game as early as Sunday. "It's still painful but it's a lot better than it once was," Saltalamacchia said. "I'd rather let it rest in Spring Training than play through pain in the first two months of the regular season. If this were the regular season, I would be playing right away. I wouldn't have taken the time off." Saltalamacchia, who came down with thoracic outlet syndrome last summer, had surgery in September to remove a rib bone that was pressing against nerves and arteries. That was causing pain and numbness in his hand and fingers. His problem now is pain in the shoulder that is believed to be caused by scar tissue breaking up. "Talking to the doctor, he said it's something normal that everybody goes through," Saltalamacchia said. With Saltalamacchia out, Teagarden was given a rare chance to start three games in a row. He was 0-for-2 on Wednesday but 2-for-4 with three RBIs on Thursday in Tucson and 0-for-2 with an RBI on Friday against the Padres. Saltalamacchia's down time might be a way for Teagarden to muscle ahead by taking advantage of the extra playing time. "It may seem that way, but it's an opportunity to get my work in," Teagarden said. "It's nice to play three or four days in a row and nice to get some repetitions. ... I'm still at the stage where I'm working on some things and taking them into the game." All the issues remain in play. Saltalamacchia has to show he is over his shoulder issues and it's not affecting his throwing. Teagarden has to prove he has the stamina and physical tools to hold up as an everyday backstop. Both have shown they can catch games behind the plate, work with pitchers and get them through games. The Rangers would prefer they hit a little bit as well. Rangers catchers combined for a .665 OPS last year, fifth lowest in the league. "One problem I don't have is worrying about how they handle the pitching staff," Washington said. "They do that. That's what they're supposed to do. You're very fortunate as a manager if you have a guy who can do that and swing the bat. Both have the potential to figure it out and hopefully it will be soon. But what they're doing right now is enough." The Rangers don't see alternatives in camp. Veteran Toby Hall is also recovering from his own shoulder surgery and has yet to play in a Cactus League game. Max Ramirez, who hit a massive home run in a B game on Friday, can swing the bat but is lacking defensively. Kevin Richardson is superb working with pitchers but not viewed as a regular catcher at the Major League level. Emerson Frostad is a converted infielder who is more of a multi-positional utility guy. The Rangers have been open to adding depth from outside the organization but seem much more concerned about their utility infield situation. The biggest concern right now is getting Saltalamacchia back on the field. There is no concern being expressed yet about his physical issues or him falling behind. He is the incumbent, but that offers no guarantees. There is simply a feeling that Texas would like for Saltalamacchia to win the job on merit rather than by default or have it handed to him without a fight. So far Teagarden is putting up a fight, but there is no clear winner at catcher just yet. There might not be either at the end of camp.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.