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By Andrew Porter
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Phillies acquired Tommy Joseph, who was being blocked by all-star catcher Buster Posey, in the Hunter Pence deal last July from San Francisco. Joseph, who was thought to be an above-average catching prospect, has been impressive in his first game action with the Phillies. In six Spring Training games, Joseph has six hits (two doubles, HR) in 13 at-bats, with a .462/.462/.846 line.
While swinging a hot bat and displaying a strong arm behind the plate, Joseph’s most impressive quality, especially for a 21 year-old, might be his leadership.
In Wednesday’s 6-3 win over the Nationals, Joseph went 3-4 with a double, while catching Roy Halladay (4.0 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 2 K, 0 ER). The rookie catcher surprised the all-star veteran pitcher by trying to talk to him in between innings, something Halladay isn’t accustomed to.
“He wanted to talk a lot in between innings which really isn’t my thing,” Halladay said after the game. “But I didn’t mind it because he was just trying to get a feel for what I wanted to do and things like that.”
Joseph admitted he had to work up the confidence to talk to Halladay, not surprising for a 21 year old kid about to talk to Halladay, the best pitcher in the game for the better part of a decade.
“I was kind of scared at first. I was like, ‘I don’t know if he wants to talk to me,’” Joseph said. “But as the innings went on, I felt comfortable with him and when I started calling pitches and he started throwing what I wanted, I thought, ‘All right, this guy knows what he wants to do and we’re on the same page.’ It was great.”
The Phillies, of course, will be without their all-star catcher Carlos Ruiz for 25 games, suspended for failing a second test for amphetamines. While Joseph has pleasantly surprised us so far this Spring, the Phillies projected starting catcher for the first 25 games, Erik Kratz, has struggled. Kratz, who hit .248 with 9 HR and 26 RBI with the Phillies in 50 games last season, is 1-11 (.091) in five exhibition games this year.
The Phillies have only played 12 Spring Training games, and Joseph has only played in six of them. We are still a little more than three weeks away from opening day, and the rookie still has a lot to prove this Spring. However, the unorthodox situation of a starting catcher facing a 25-game suspension to begin the season, allows for the possibility of a 21 year-old to play his way onto the Phillies opening day roster. And that’s exactly what Joesph is doing.
The easy, conservative decision is to send Joseph to triple-A, let him get as many at-bats as possible, and then bring him up in September if need be. However, the easy decision isn’t always the right one.
Joseph’s chances of making the opening day roster are probably unlikely, but if nothing else, the Phillies have to be thinking about it…right?
Andrew Porter is the Audio Roadshow Coordinator for SportsRadio WIP, editor and writer for The School Philly, and a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly. You can follow him on Twitter @And_Porter.