Rays catcher Jose Molina has captured fans’ attention recently with his unexpected “speed” on the base paths. After Molina sprinted to score on Ben Zobrist’s single on June 20, with two outs and the score tied, manager Joe Maddon tweeted:
"“I was almost sucked out of the dugout by the vortex J-Mo created when he rounded 3rd on Zo’s single. It’s like getting caught in jet wash.”"
Although we all had a few laughs over Maddon’s unique commentary, Molina’s base running is not the only thing that he is receiving recognition for. While the Rays have struggled in the past to find effective catchers, Molina and fellow catcher Jose Lobaton are proving that their hard work is paying off behind the plate.
When Molina picked off Minnesota Twins’ Aaron Hicks Monday night, it was the first pick off for a Rays’ catcher since Kelly Shoppach accomplished the feat on April 19, 2011. Molina also threw out two runners attempting to steal base in last Sunday’s game, helping the Rays in their 3-1 victory over the White Sox.
“Catchers get really blown up sometimes — now, there are catchers who are really slow and not accurate, but Ja-Mo is, and so is [Lobaton],” Maddon told MLB.com’s Bill Chastain. “So if we give them a shot, we’re going to throw the runners out.”
However, Maddon also explained that part of the success Molina and Lobaton are having is aided by pitchers doing their part to work with their catchers to watch for base stealers.
“Primarily because pitchers are doing a better job of holding runners on,” Maddon added. “If you want to have a catcher look good, you have to do a better job among the pitching staff. Whether it’s a move to first, quicker times to the plate. … That’s the key reason you throw out runners.”
Jose Lobaton noted that working with the pitching staff is key in helping out the team as a whole.
“I don’t want to put the pitcher in a bad situation,” Lobaton told Chastain. “I know they can do better. Same thing with me when I don’t block a ball, they’re thinking, ‘He can do better.’ It’s something we have to work on together. And try to throw those guys out. Those runs are important for the team and the pitchers. I know they understand that.”
The Rays are witnessing an offensive boost this season that is helping them stay red hot this month. However, Molina and Lobaton continue to prove that pitching and defense bring the Rays success.