Around the Horn: Catchers

Norris, Hedges and Bethancourt to battle for backstop job

Around the Horn: Catchers

A multi-part Around the Horn series, which features a position-by-position look at San Diego's projected starters and backup options heading into Spring Training begins with the catcher position.

SAN DIEGO -- When pitchers and catchers arrive in Arizona precisely three weeks from Thursday, three catchers who have a good chance of being on the 25-man Opening Day roster will be among them.

Barring a deal in the next three weeks -- general manager A.J. Preller is in charge, so anything is possible -- the Padres will begin Spring Training with Derek Norris, Austin Hedges and newcomer Christian Bethancourt looking to win spots on the Opening Day roster.

The Padres won't begin the season with three catchers, so it stands to reason one of these catchers -- and it's likely Hedges or Bethancourt -- won't make the team.

Norris likely isn't going anywhere following a season where he started a career-high 116 games behind the plate, threw out more baserunners (38 CCS, catcher caught stealing) and improved his framing skills while also hitting 14 home runs with 62 RBIs.

Hedges throws out Rollins

Hedges, who won't turn 24 until Aug. 15, made his big league debut in May. He hit .168/.215/.248 in 137 at-bats. Hedges' calling card, of course, is his defense, as he threw out 16 would-be basestealers in 47 games and excelled in pitch framing -- and the team's pitchers love throwing to him.

Bethancourt, 24, was obtained by the Padres from the Braves on the final day of the Winter Meetings in December. Bethancourt was a highly-regarded prospect that has seen his star fade some, though Preller feels he's still a good player.

He hit .200/.225/.290 in 160 plate appearances for the Braves after beginning the season as the team's starting catcher, only to lose the job two weeks into the season. Bethancourt's glove work and pitch-calling frustrated the Braves, who optioned him to Triple-A in June.

"It's a player who has a lot of talent, a good body, a pretty good arm," Preller said. "He's definitely got something to prove. He has the ability and everyone in the game knows that. We'll see if we can unlock some of that."

Bethancourt nabs Nieuwenhuis

The Padres used Norris at first base on occasion last season and may also do that in 2016, though Wil Myers figures to play nearly every day there. The one thing the Padres are going to watch closely is Norris' workload.

That means whoever the backup is, they're going to be more than just a Sunday catcher -- someone used sporadically.

"Like where he was at [in innings] last year, that's not probably the best recipe for him playing that many games," Padres manager Andy Green said of Norris. "The wear and tear at the end of the season ... we're going to talk through that."

The team signed 35-year-old catcher Erik Kratz to a Minor League deal last month, and he will likely end up in Triple-A. He has appeared in 192 Major League games over six seasons with the Pirates, Phillies, Royals and Blue Jays. Rocky Gale, who made his big league debut last September, is also returning, like Kratz, on a Minor League deal.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.