NEW YORK – Caleb Joseph isn’t playing on Saturday. Ryan Lavarnway gets the start instead.
That will give Joseph the chance to rest and watch. So far this season, nine runners have stolen off Joseph, and he’s thrown four out. On Friday night, Brett Gardner was successful.
He says he made two bad throws this season, both last month in Toronto.
“Those are bad throws. All the other ones I’ll take. The rest of them were a product of a fast runner. Maybe he got a good jump, but our pitchers have been doing a great job all season of giving us a chance. I’ll take every one of my throws, minus the two,” Joseph said
“Out of all of them, I just want two throws back.”
There were questions about Joseph’s defense when debuted just over a year ago. He answered many of them.
“Even last year when I threw out 40 percent, you’re looking at a 60 percent success rate. It’s hard. These guys are getting paid millions of dollars. They don’t get on first base and just run. These guys are fast,” Joseph said.
“There are a lot of things that go into it, like who’s hitting behind him, the count, look for a sequence, maybe look for a breaking pitch because those pitches are getting to the plate a little slower. They’re not going to go unless they feel like they really can steal the base.”
Orioles pitchers are continually drilled on the need to deliver the ball rapidly to the plate. Most do.
“Our guys are normally quick. It’s not necessarily about times. It’s about getting jumps,” Joseph said.
Joseph says throwing runners out can’t necessarily be replicated in spring training.
“There’s an ebb and flow of getting it because I only had two chances, three chances during the spring to throw a guy out. You take three months off, and you can practice it all you want in spring training. You can practice throwing to bases, but there’s a totally different feel when you’re in the game and you’ve got adrenaline and you’ve got live pitching, you’ve got a live batter,” Joseph said.
“You can try your best to simulate it, but nothing comes close to a real game. It would be like only giving Chris Davis three at-bats to get ready for the season.”
Joseph says he’s helped by having J.J. Hardy back. That should boost his caught stealing percentage.
“My responsibility is to throw the ball in hopefully under 1.9 seconds in the tagging zone. After that, there’s a lot of pieces and parts to this puzzle. People underestimated what a great tagger J.J. is, and Buck [Showalter] talks about it all the time. J.J. singlehandedly got, I would say eight to 10 stolen bases for me because of his unbelievable tagging,” Joseph said.
“If I’m throwing balls into center field, we’ve got issues, but as long as I’m doing my part, and getting it down there as fast as I can in the tagging zone, I feel like with the way that the team is designed and as great a job as our pitchers do, we will get, more times than not, we’ll have a really good chance of getting them out.”
As a second year player, Joseph is able to see more of the game behind the plate, and he’s able to multitask more often.
“You can pay attention to a lot of the way they lead off [the base]. I’m so much more comfortable with how [bench coach] John Russell is going to use pickoffs and pitchouts and knowing that, it’s kind of an unspoken communication there, knowing that this is a good time to run, and your senses are heightened versus maybe [in your] first year, there’s so much going on back there,” Joseph said.
A year ago, Joseph was a career minor leaguer hoping to get some time in the big leagues. Now, he’s the regular pending the return of Matt Wieters. The game is so much more cerebral.
“Late in the game, you’re trying to manage a certain spot there. Where is this out at the plate more important than the stolen base? How are we going to pitch to this guy because every catcher wants to throw a fastball? It’s the hardest pitch. It’s the easiest to handle, but sometimes you’ve got to know how to navigate around the guy at first base and the hitter because you don’t want to throw him five straight fastballs because then a guy puts it into play, and the run scored,” Joseph said.