John Jaso returned to the Rays with his catching days mostly behind him. His defense already did not inspire confidence behind the plate for many watching the Athletics, but then there were the concussions.
When the Rays acquired Jaso, I asked Athletics Nation writer Alex Hall for his take on his situation, and he called it, "such an obviously precarious situation." Already it seemed there was very little chance Jaso was using a catcher's mitt for more than emergency duty again, and Matt Silverman confirmed that by referring to Jaso as a "third catcher" for the roster, taking on the emergency role from the traded Sean Rodriguez.
Jaso had played some first base in the past, so that was a possibility for getting him in the field, but through a matter of Spring Training drills*, Jaso has been surprising the coaches in the outfield.
Former catcher now manager Kevin Cash was roaming the outfield with him during batting practice recently, and had high praise at the mention of Jaso taking the field.
"Man, he's looking really good," said Cash. "He was reading balls off the bat, he looked great."
Jaso joined outfielder drills on Monday as well, where Cash says his throws were on point, noting, "every ball he threw was right on line. I think from speaking with him, he's been comfortable with it. We didn't anticipate getting him out there until end of Spring, but I think he have him coming in the third or fourth game of the year."
For his part, Jaso says he feels "more and more confident" for a position he hasn't tried since high school.
"I've been having a lot of fun doing all the drills out there," said Jaso. "I think challenges will be picking up the ball and knowing where to throw," based on situations for runners on base. "Keeping double plays in order... those kinds of presets you need to have in mind before the pitch is even thrown."
As for any aspects of the position might give him trouble, Jaso thinks he'd handle the running fine, which is his standard off-season workout, and his body is already grateful to not be squatting all Spring with the rest of the catchers. It's more the nuances and mental aspects he thinks will take some time.
"Doing the whole, ‘I got it! I got it!' thing for the first time is going to be pretty weird for me. As a catcher you don't do that. You get a pop-up and sit under it until someone calls you off. You never call it. That's at least the way I was taught!! I was always hoping somebody would call me off."
You can hear more from Jaso on playing the outfield here:
Quotes courtesy of Rays Radio.
*Speaking of catchers in the outfield, I once sat through nine innings of Stephen Vogt playing right field in Port Charlotte. The joys of Spring baseball.