The Tri-City Dust Devils began the 2008 season with just two catchers, Jhaysson Agustin and Jordan Pacheco.
And one of them — Pacheco, an infielder with the 2007 Dust Devils — was just learning the position.
And things got a little scary the day before the team left for Vancouver for opening day when Agustin got hit on the left wrist in batting practice.
A good, well-balanced catcher is harder to come by than you might think. A good hitter is one thing, but to be able to handle a pitching staff and be a dependable receiver is another.
Ask Lars Davis, a third-round pick out of Illinois last season, who struggled to field the position all season. One of his biggest problems was a large frame — he’s 6-foot-3 — that he just couldn’t move around deftly enough to block wild pitches and handle the daily grind behind the plate.
But Pacheco should be an interesting study behind the plate this season. He’s a bit smaller at 6-1 and is much more agile. He played second base and shortstop for Casper and Tri-City last season.
If you’re asking how that prepares him for a season behind the plate, you’re asking the right question.
“He profiled more as a catcher than as an infielder,” said Dust Devils manager Fred Ocasio. “So far he’s done a good job. He’s dropped a couple of balls so far, but he catches a pretty good game.”
Granted, Ocasio made those comments before Sunday’s 7-4 loss to Salem-Keizer, during which Volcanoes runners stole four bases against Pacheco, whose throws to second at times had a tendency to sail high and right.
He did throw out two runners, though: One at second and another at third with nice throws a few feet above the bag.
Pacheco was as surprised as anyone when asked to make the switch.
“I was a little bit in shock. I didn’t know what they saw in me,” Pacheco said. “They gave me a bunch of reasons, though.”
Lately, the Dust Devils have given Pacheco and Agustin a little bit more company behind the backstop, bringing in Johnny Bowden, another 2007 Dust Devil; and major leaguer Adam Melhuse, who is coming through on a rehabilitation stint.