MINNEAPOLIS -- The White Sox would like to avoid anointing either of their backstops as a pitcher’s personal catcher. But Dioner Navarro and Mat Latos may just force the issue.
Back in February, Latos -- who is making his second 2016 start on Thursday afternoon -- said a big reason he joined the White Sox on a discounted deal is to again work with Navarro, whom he teamed up with for seven starts in Cincinnati in 2012. The right-hander implicitly trusts Navarro, who joked early in spring training he would like to be the “hashtag -- personal catcher” for Latos. Including last Thursday’s one-hitter in Oakland, Latos has a 2.01 ERA in 53 2/3 innings with Navarro behind the dish.
“I don’t want to get into that game already this early in the season, but if they do match up and he continues to pitch like that it might evolve into that,” manager Robin Ventura said.
It’s evident how much Latos likes throwing to Navarro, who didn’t catch him until Aug. 8 of the 2012 season. The two shared a big bear hug when they saw each other on the first day of spring training.
And Latos praised Navarro’s game-calling and gave the veteran catcher all the credit for last Thursday’s start in Oakland. Latos allowed a hit and a walk in dispensing of the Oakland A’s and said he only attempted to shake off Navarro once before he thought better of it.
“He kind of paused and kind of tilted his head at me,” Latos said. “And I stepped off the mound and was like ‘Whatever you want. Ok, boom let’s go.’ Called the pitch and we went after it.”
With Navarro behind the dish, Latos has allowed 34 hits, walked 14 and struck out 44 in 53 2/3 innings. Still, the White Sox probably want to see more evidence before they commit to a Latos-Navarro battery, especially since they also employ Alex Avila.
“I’ll leave that to Robin and Coop,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “I don’t think we’re going to have the quote, unquote personal catcher situation. But that has to be a consideration when Robin’s making the lineup. Both of our guys, Dioner and Alex, have the ability and have previously been full-time catchers so to speak, so there’s no problem using them back-to-back or using them three days in a row, if that’s what the matchups dictate.
“There’s a great deal of faith in both of those guys. Robin’s just going to put whichever one gives us the best chance to win out there on any given day.”