A Look At The Tampa Bay Rays Catching Situation

By Thomas Swan

The Tampa Bay Rays catching situation just became dire and added more woes to a team that quite frankly has enough of them. With Ryan Hanigan on the DL because of a right hamstring injury, the team will have to rely on Jose Molina and Ali Solis to catch. For all of you wondering, the Rays are relying on a catcher hitting .137 and another that, for his career, has five big league plate appearances and a .635 OPS at Triple-A. Given that, I’m sure a lot of Rays fans are hoping Sean Rodriguez has his catching gear at the ready.

The problem is that the Rays put themselves in this position by over using Hanigan. Quite honestly, early on, it was hard not to play him. He started out a house of fire and drove the Rays offense early in the season. But it caught up with him. Hitless in his last 23 at-bats, Hanigan’s batting average has slipped to .212 and he still carries the same three home runs and 22 RBIs he has for quite awhile. When the Rays acquired him, he came with a bit of a disclaimer. While not injury prone, per say, he’s had his injury problems, only playing a hundred games once in his career. That was the high point so far in his career, as were the 312 at-bats he had that season. The Rays believe in Hanigan and signed him to an extension but he is most likely not an everyday catcher. Going forward, the Rays will have to manage Hanigan a little bit more.

As valuable as Jose Molina is as a pitch framer and a pitch caller, his bat has made him a hinderance to the Rays. He can really no longer be expected to play an entire game, and especially not multiple games in a row. The Rays have to pinch hit for him late in games, whether they like it or not, and that puts more pressure on Hanigan. With him on the DL, do the Rays really want to rely on Ali Solis late in games? No matter which way you turn, neither option is a desirable one and quite likely going to cost the Rays in the win department.

This is a problem going forward. Hanigan is the Rays starting catcher but the Rays need to find a counterpart to compliment him. More and more, it is becoming apparent that the answer is not Jose Molina. Curt Casali has torn up Double-A and Triple-A pitching this year, but he needs significant work defensively and has little experience in the upper minors. Regardless he has more talent than Solis and might soon surpass Molina. Even if the Rays want to be cautious with his development, there are plenty of catchers available via trade. Whatever the case, Jose Molina cannot be a part of the Rays’ catching tandem for much longer.