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Monday, November 28, 2011

Mets unhappy with Catcher Ronny Paulino, look to fill his shoes

The Mets are not happy with backup catcher Ronny Paulino as Andy Martino of the NY Daily News indicated there was a riff between Paulino and Terry Collins at times. There was also a lack of work ethic as team officials put it.

According to Martino, team insiders say Josh Thole would catch about 60% of games, and a veteran acquisition would handle the remaining 40%.

With last year’s so-so rotation set to return largely intact, and with young arms like Bobby Parnell, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee still learning the league, a veteran catcher might be the best way to improve the pitching.

“He was supposed to hit for power, and all he did was hit singles,” said one Mets official of Paulino, who hit two home runs in 2011, and slugged just .351. “(Mike) Nickeas could do that, and he would be much better defensively."

Nickeas, 28, is universally regarded as a superb defender, and as recently as September the team was comfortable with the notion of replacing Paulino with him in 2012. But Nickeas’ .189 average in 53 at-bats in 2011 reminded the Mets of their concerns about his hitting, and prompted some club officials to push for an outside solution.

The free agent market does not offer many palatable options, and could ultimately lead the Mets back to Nickeas (or Paulino, although that is difficult to imagine). Henry Blanco was extremely popular among Mets pitchers in 2010, but he quickly re-signed with Arizona this winter.

Other available catchers include Ramon Hernandez and Kelly Shoppach. Two higher-profile options, Jason Varitek and Ivan Rodriguez, could prove intriguing, and the Mets could seek catching help in a trade.

Thole, meanwhile, remains well-liked and respected for his efforts to improve. Those efforts became manifest after he struggled early last season in all elements of his game. In the second half, Thole batted .281, with a .340 on-base percentage, and impressed the pitching staff with defensive improvement.

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