Andrew Knapp was behind the plate Saturday night in Atlanta for the ninth time in Zach Eflin’s last 12 starts.
It has sure seemed since the start of 2020 that Knapp is Eflin’s personal catcher, and while Phillies manager/former catcher Joe Girardi won’t set that in stone, he’s experienced firsthand the value of the backup being able to focus on one of his starting pitchers in particular.
Knapp and Eflin came through the Phillies’ system together and have spent much of the last seven years as batterymates. The Phils drafted Knapp in the second round in 2013 and traded for Eflin in December 2014. They’re good friends.
“They seem to work well together,” Girardi said Saturday afternoon. “I always found it easier when I was a backup guy that a lot of times, it was easier to catch one guy. If you can team up a couple of times in a row, you felt like you knew the pitcher better and you could feed off of what he did his last start.”
Knapp has caught both of Eflin’s starts this season and will likely catch the third on Thursday afternoon at Citi Field, according to Girardi. The Phillies are expected to face Jacob deGrom in that game. Knapp has had surprising success in a small sample against the best pitcher in baseball, going 4 for 9 with a double, triple, homer and two walks against deGrom.
Another consideration is that the Phils will face a lefty Sunday, Monday and Wednesday and Girardi wants Realmuto’s bat in the lineup for all three of those games. Sunday is Drew Smyly, Monday is David Peterson and it looks like Wednesday will be Joey Lucchesi.
The Phillies will always walk a fine line with Realmuto of trying to maximize his impact by having him in the lineup as much as possible while also thinking about the long-term objective of playing into October. He caught every inning in five of the Phillies’ first seven games and caught three innings in another. There isn’t much time to rest over the next month, with the Phillies playing 30 games in 31 days between April 9 and May 9.