Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Receiving skills make catcher Jose Molina an important addition to Tampa Bay Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — The concept seems incredibly simple, especially for a man of his vocation. But in a Rays offseason that is more than half over without anything close to a big deal, the one significant improvement they're certain of is the addition of veteran catcher Jose Molina, known (of all things) for his ability to catch.

Even though Molina turns 37 in June, likely won't start more then half their games and isn't going to do much with his bat, the Rays expect him to have considerable impact and influence.

"Significant," manager Joe Maddon said.

Some will be obvious, like how opponents won't try to steal as much against him, fearing a quick release and arm that can stymie any running game. And some will be less tangible, like the presence Molina will provide in the clubhouse and serving as a mentor to the team's younger catchers.

But most telling will be his work behind the plate, where Molina is noted for his expertise not only in calling pitches, but also catching them — and the additional benefits it can reap with umpires.

"He's got such soft hands, and the ability to position himself sometimes on a little bit of an angle to give the umpire a little bit of a different view," said Toronto manager John Farrell, for whom Molina played the past two seasons.

"So the catching for him is clearly an art rather than just being the receiver. When you're looking at the ability to frame a pitch or the ability to receive like he can, he's one of those guys that begins to set the standard for just how good his hands are."

Quantifying just how much Molina can help is an inexact science. One analysis of pitch framing posted on Baseball Prospectus calculated Molina would save his team a major-league most 35 runs over a full season by getting borderline pitches called strikes. On the scale of ERA when he's behind the plate, Molina's 3.94 ranks fifth of all active catchers with 500 games.

While the data is subject to considerable interpretation, it only enhances Molina's reputation as a pitcher's best friends.

James Shields said he and other Rays pitchers used to "be jealous" watching Molina from the opposing dugout.

Dave Eiland, the Yankees' pitching coach when Molina was there in 2008-09, said there's good reason: "He steals you a lot of strikes."

Also, "He's on top of everything," said Eiland, now with the Royals. "I can't say enough about him. He's very good at adapting to a game plan, navigating a pitcher through a game and making adjustments on the fly. … He's very good at knowing each pitcher's makeup and their stuff. … He's got very soft hands. He receives the ball really good."

One of three catching brothers (Yadier with St. Louis, Bengie last with Texas in 2010), Molina said the emphasis on defense seems rather obvious. And he takes considerable pride in it.

"That's what got me to the big leagues, and that's why I'm still in the big leagues, because I can catch and throw," Molina said. "I'm never going to let that get away from my game. That's my game. … I take a lot of pride in it. Defense is most important. That's how you win games, pitching and defense. And you see it and I see it with the way the Rays played in the past years."

While the Rays are still looking for a couple of bats to improve their offense and fill holes at first base and DH — and ponder whether to make a big deal by trading one of their starters — they figure to already be in better hands.

"Jose is one of best receivers, game callers and handlers of a pitching staff I've been around in my 26 years," said Eiland, a Rays special assistant in 2011. "Tampa Bay has had one of the best pitching staffs the last few years, but as crazy as it sounds, he's going to make them even better."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]

Receiving skills make catcher Jose Molina an important addition to Tampa Bay Rays 12/19/11 [Last modified: Monday, December 19, 2011 10:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lightning edges Red Wings on road

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — The digs were different, the Lightning seeing the masterfully-done new Little Caesar's Arena for the first time.

    Lightning center/Red Wings’ killer Tyler Johnson gets past defenseman Trevor Daley on his way to the first goal of the game.
  2. Armwood pulls away to defeat Plant 27-7, remain undefeated


    SEFFNER — First-year Armwood coach Evan Davis pulled out all the stops to get his team psyched for Monday's annual grudge match against Plant.

    Armwood defensive end Malcolm Lamar (97) gets fired up before the start of the game between Plant High School Panthers and the Armwood High School Hawks in Suffer, Fla. on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017.
  3. Bucs journal: Dirk Koetter says Vernon Hargreaves needs to improve


    TAMPA — The Bucs now rank 31st in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 301 yards per game in their 2-3 start, and coach Dirk Koetter was asked Monday how concerned he is with the play of second-year CB Vernon Hargreaves.

    Ryan Fitzpatrick, throwing an incompletion under pressure after replacing injured Jameis Winston against the Cardinals,  would start this Sunday in Buffalo if Winston’s shoulder is still bothering him.
  4. Backhand shot makes Nikita Kucherov's offense even more dangerous

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — Nikita Kucherov is on a historic streak, just the fourth player in the past 30 years to score a goal in each of his first six games.

    Nikita Kucherov’s backhand shot adds to his strong scoring.
  5. Rick Pitino officially fired by Louisville amid federal corruption probe


    In an expected move, the University of Louisville Athletic Association's Board of Directors on Monday voted unanimously to fire men's basketball coach Rick Pitino. The decision came 19 days after Louisville acknowledged that its men's basketball program was being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe and …

    In this Oct. 20, 2016, file photo, Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino reacts to a question during a press conference in Louisville, Ky. Louisville's Athletic Association on Monday officially fired Pitino, nearly three weeks after the school acknowledged that its men's basketball program is being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe. [AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File]