PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — New York Mets catcher Josh Thole knew something was wrong defensively last year. He just couldn’t figure out what it was.
After leading the National League with 16 passed balls in 2011, the 25 year old spent two weeks this winter in Dallas with Mets minor league catching instructor Bob Natal. It didn’t take long to discover the problem.
“My stance was off,” Thole said. “I kept getting in and out of my stances. … I was as inconsistent as you can get.”
Watching video from last season, Thole saw himself constantly switching his stance behind the plate — as much as four different stances over a two-inning period. And every time Thole’s position changed, his glove placement would change with it.
Narrow. Wide. On one knee. Up and down. Thole couldn’t settle on a stance.
“Catching really only has two stances,” said Mets bench coach Bob Geren, a major league catcher for five seasons. “You have a man-on-base stance and a nobody on base stance. It’s like anything else. If you’re a hitter and you’re constantly changing your stance, you see the ball differently and you become insistent. You want to be the same all the time.
“I think he truly never felt comfortable last year, so he was always trying to do something — either consciously or subconsciously to change things,” Geren added. “Getting something that will work for him will help him be consistent.”
Thole watched clips of some of the top defensive catchers in the league, including St. Louis’ Yadier Molina and Philadelphia’s Carlos Ruiz, noting both catchers got into the same stance “virtually every time.”
With the help of Natal and Geren, Thole now is using a little bit of a wider stance behind the plate with his chest up at a different angle.
Thole said the key is getting into that stance consistently.
Geren sees improvement in Thole’s bullpen sessions, but added it will be difficult to track progress until spring games begin on March 5.
“I have more confidence right now because of where I am defensively,” Thole said. “It’s changed light years away from where it was. I thought I was prepared last year, but looking where I am now, I feel like I’ve come light years from where I was.”