OAKLAND, Calif. — Dioner Navarro gets another Opening Day opportunity courtesy of Sonny Gray’s food poisoning.
The White Sox catcher awoke to the news Monday he would start the regular season opener against the Oakland A’s after word surfaced that Gray had been scratched. Billy Russo, the team’s Spanish Communications Manager, texted Navarro to inform him he would get the nod over Alex Avila with Gray out. This is the seventh Opening Day assignment and third in a row for Navarro, who signed a one-year deal with the club in December.
“I was getting ready to come over and it kind of pumped me up a little,” Navarro said. “I didn’t know who was going to be in the lineup.”
White Sox manager Robin Ventura said the change isn’t drastic. The team had to hold an additional hitters meeting Monday to discuss Gray’s replacement, Rich Hill. The team went over Gray after Sunday’s workout. But Navarro would have caught Tuesday’s game when the White Sox were originally scheduled to face Hill.
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Navarro is 2-for-3 with a homer against Hill. Jimmy Rollins is 3-for-11 against Hill but few other White Sox have much experience against the veteran lefty.
While Ventura isn’t defining exactly how he’ll use the veteran catchers, it sounds as if he plans to go with the best matchup overall. Ventura also said health would factor into the daily decisions.
Both catchers worked with every pitcher during spring training and there aren’t necessarily any personal catchers. Navarro caught two of Sale’s games this spring, including one minor-league start.
Because both catchers are experienced, Ventura thinks they’re better-suited to handle a platoon.
“There’s no the older guy and the younger guy and the ego that goes with that,” Ventura said. “Both of these guys know they’re going to be switching in and out of there. It’s an honor to be playing Opening Day, but it doesn’t mean you’re not going to play any less or any more the rest of the season.”
Navarro didn’t seem to be shocked by the news and said it reflects his mindset of how he’ll be used. With the way Ventura plans to employ him and Avila, Navarro said he has to be alert for each and every game.
“Just come ready every day,” Navarro said. “That’s what my mentality has been my whole career. You have to be ready. You never know when your name is going to be called and you have to be ready when it is. That’s the way I approach every day.”
The White Sox are using a similar method to Tuesday’s game. Oakland’s starting pitcher is up in the air and Gray — who had to go to the emergency room Monday for intravenous fluids — could make the start.
A’s trainer Nick Paparesta told the Associated Press there’s an “outside chance” Gray could play Tuesday. But, the A’s plan to “err on the side of caution and be intelligent about what we're doing here instead of sending a guy out there with an empty stomach that hasn't been able to keep anything down for 24 hours and expect him to perform, A, and obviously fatigue is the precursor to potential further injury.”