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Tampa Bay Rays Eventual Decision at Catcher

By David Hill
Apr 4, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays catcher Derek Norris (33) at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 4, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays catcher Derek Norris (33) at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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It is expected that Jesus Sucre will be heading to the minors once Wilson Ramos is ready to return to the Tampa Bay Rays lineup and start catching. However, if Derek Norris does not start to perform, that may not be a given.

The Tampa Bay Rays have had a very unsettled, and putrid, history at catcher. Let’s face it – either Toby Hall or John Flaherty may be the best catchers in team history. All Wilson Ramos needs to do is to reach his career averages, and he will automatically be the best hitting catcher in the history of the Rays.

Of course, there are questions about Ramos. First, there is the question of when he will return to the lineup. Second, once he is ready to make his Rays debut, when will he be able to get behind the plate? The Rays may need to carry three catchers for a period of time until Ramos can take his place defensively on a regular basis.

Once this happens, it is expected that Jesus Sucre will be heading back to Durham, with Derek Norris taking over as the backup catcher. At least, that was the plan, so long as Norris produced. Given his struggles last season, where he posted a miserable .186/.255/.328 batting line, despite his 14 homers.

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Norris has not exactly been much better thus far in 2017. After yesterday’s game, Norris has a .200/.222/.200 batting line, with just one walk in 27 plate appearances. Yes, the caveat of small sample sizes exists here, but his offense has certainly not awoken in Tampa Bay.

While Norris has a reputation as a solid defensive catcher, and an excellent pitch framer, Sucre has his supporters amongst the pitching staff. His work and dedication to learning the tendencies of his pitchers, and willingness to work with them, certainly grabbed attention during Spring Training. In fact, that work ethic is why Sucre made the Opening Day roster in the first place.

Given the comfort level that the Rays pitching staff feels with Sucre, what may seem to be a sure thing with Norris could be a tough decision. If Sucre can provide even moderately competent offense, and Norris continues to struggle, Sucre’s demotion to Durham may not be guaranteed.

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In a couple of months, the Tampa Bay Rays will have a decision to make with their catcher spot. If Derek Norris continues to struggle with the bat, it may not be an easy decision to make.

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