HOUSTON — Being a rookie is hard. Being a catcher is intricate. Being each — whereas studying a brand new pitching workers in the course of a season — appears daunting.
And but, early evaluations say Austin Wells is doing an excellent job with all of it after three video games within the majors.
“I’ve been extremely impressed with just kind of the aptitude and how he’s stepped into this environment,” Yankees catching coordinator Tanner Swanson instructed the Daily News, noting that Wells has to handle the PitchCom, pitch clock and working recreation indicators, along with studying new pitchers and opposing hitters on the fly. “All things considered, he’s been able to step back there and kind of manage the moment and really just lock in on the task at hand, which is a challenge for a lot of young players.”
Swanson spoke earlier than the Yankees accomplished their sweep of the Astros with a 6-1 win on Sunday. In addition to recording an RBI double, Wells nabbed the very first huge league base-stealer to check him after the 24-year-old solely threw out 13% of runners within the minors this season.
“Getting that first one under the belt on the first steal was really awesome,” stated Wells, who underwent surgical procedure on his throwing elbow in highschool and carried out a weighted ball program within the Yankees’ system to enhance his arm energy.
Wells additionally caught 5 innings of one-run ball from Michael King on Sunday. The right-hander, who’s making an attempt to determine himself as a starter after a couple of years within the Yankees bullpen, went out of his strategy to reward Wells’ work after throwing to him for the primary time.
“He had a great gameplan going in,” King stated, unprompted. “He’s phenomenal at adjusting and a real great communicator. We had a ton of conversations in between innings about what we think they were doing, what they were sitting on, different sequences to use. I loved working with him.”
Tommy Kahnle, who threw two good innings after King, additionally used the phrase “loved” to explain working with Wells. Luis Severino highlighted the backstop’s game-calling on Saturday, whereas Carlos Rodón, who threw to Wells throughout a rehab task, stated the catcher had a “great” debut behind the plate on Friday.
Clay Holmes, whose sinker can problem unfamiliar catchers, used the phrase “seamless” to explain the novice.
“His targets were good. He received the ball well,” Holmes instructed the News after throwing to Wells for the primary time this weekend. “He wasn’t really overmatched with the sinker.”
King additionally seen that Wells didn’t have hassle with Holmes’ sinker.
“He’s making his sinker not look that good, and I’m like, ‘What is going on?’” King stated, complimenting Wells’ receiving. “But it’s just Wells is so good back there that he knew how to handle the staff and called a really good game.”
Every pitcher that was requested about Wells had nothing however constructive issues to say. When instructed of that and King’s approval on Sunday, Wells credited the pitching workers for his robust weekend.
“They’ve done a really good job communicating with me what they’re trying to do,” he stated. “That’s made my job rather a lot simpler with the ability to name the pitches which have given them excessive success.
“It gives me all the confidence in the world to have the guys on the mound be able to trust me right off the bat.”
That so many pitchers lauded Wells’ catching could come as a shock to anybody who has adopted his profession.
The Arizona product’s protection has been criticized because the Yankees drafted Wells twenty eighth total in 2020, and there was loads of hypothesis about him altering positions. Considered an bat-first prospect, Wells has been adamant about remaining a catcher.
Kyle Higashioka, a veteran, glove-first catcher, stated that he doesn’t fairly get the knocks in opposition to Wells.
“People keep saying that, but I don’t really see it,” Higashioka instructed the News of the defensive query marks. “Nothing jumps out to me.”
Higashioka added that how a catcher handles a pitching workers is “the most important thing.” He thinks Wells is “doing a good job of that.”
Swanson stated that Higashioka, who could possibly be pressured out by Wells after this season, has served as a “sounding board” for his youthful teammate. He’s helped Wells study pitchers’ preferences and the precise verbiage they like to make use of.
That data helped Wells when he had pregame conversations with Yankees pitchers all through the weekend. While Swanson famous that the workforce’s superior prep and game-calling processes on the MLB stage are just like what they do at Triple-A, Wells made certain to take notes, ask questions, and chat with pitchers, coaches and assist workers. He additionally provided and requested suggestions in the course of the video games.
“You could tell he’s very invested in it,” Holmes stated. “We had conversations earlier than the sport, simply form of like my preferences and issues I appreciated and whatnot. You may inform he was very ready. Basically felt like he was on high of all the things. Nothing felt actually sped up.
Added Swanson: “He’s very capable of taking in information and taking in feedback and making adjustments quickly, which is a really good trait.”
While Wells’ weekend went off with out a hitch on protection, it was his preparation that caught Aaron Boone’s eye.
“He has a presence to him. He’s got a thirst for it,” Boone stated. “He takes a lot of pride in not only preparing as a hitter, but preparing as a catcher for the opposing lineup. He seems to have that passion, that kind of baseball thing you need to have as a catcher. And I think he’s, going back to even spring training and now, got off to a good start relationally with some veteran pitchers and some really good pitchers.”
Of course, Wells, whose spring coaching was interrupted by a fractured rib, nonetheless has progress to make.
He doesn’t know all the things he must find out about his new pitchers after one weekend within the majors, and he nonetheless wants some refining. When requested what Wells must work on most, Swanson talked about his framing, a ability the Yankees have prioritized behind the plate in recent times.
“Everybody’s good at this skill, so the margins are extremely small and the adjustments are often very, very fine,” Swanson stated. “An inch right here, a slight adjustment with timing, possibly not being as early, with the ability to belief your eyes and course of data and actually gradual issues down. Small tweaks in how possibly he’s loading the glove for a selected pitch. So all very, very minor issues which are very, quite common discussions that we have now with all catchers. But simply from day one to day two, he made a giant leap.
“I have no doubt that he’s going to continue to make strides in that regard.”
Wells can even be examined if and when he will get an opportunity to catch Gerrit Cole.
The ace, gunning for a Cy Young award, is scheduled to make his subsequent begin Tuesday when the Yankees start a collection with the Tigers. Boone stated that Ben Rortvedt will doubtless catch that recreation — hardly a shock — however the skipper didn’t fully rule out the potential of Wells receiving Cole, who might be particularly specific on the subject of his catchers.
“I don’t know what I need to see. I mean, I just want to make sure that you’re putting guys in the best position for success,” Cole instructed the News Sunday when requested what he needs to see from a younger catcher like Wells. “He’s catching tonight, so he’s got three games in a row. Maybe watching the game makes him better for the next game in terms of maybe catching me or for the rest of the series against Detroit. I feel like that’s probably a better question for the manager. But I just give a s—t if guys prepare and give 100 percent, which we never really have an issue with.”
While it doesn’t sound like Wells will catch Cole simply but, the right-hander added that the rookie “looks the part” and has slot in instantly. That sentiment echoed all through the Yankees clubhouse in Houston.
While the pattern is small, Wells’ catching profession appears to be off to a robust begin. If nothing else, it’s clear that his craft means an excellent deal to him.
On Sunday, he went so far as to say that he cares extra about his protection than his offense.
“Being able to go back there and have the game in my hands, really calling the pitches every play, is very important to me,” Wells stated. “Being capable of name the proper pitches on the proper time, that’s what helps us win ballgames. So arguably, catching is certainly extra necessary to me once I’m going on the market behind the plate.
“I mean, hitting is definitely important, but being able to go back there and get outs and control the pitching staff, that’s my No. 1 goal.”