Backup catchers focused on preparation

Garneau, Murphy battling for spot behind Hundley

Backup catchers focused on preparation

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Catchers Dustin Garneau and Tom Murphy dress a couple of stalls apart inside the Rockies' clubhouse at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. They attend the same meetings, sometimes play in the same games, and want the same prize, an Opening Day roster spot as veteran Nick Hundley's backup.

Both started Monday's 6-4 victory against the Mariners and ace Felix Hernandez. Murphy, whose only hit this spring is a home run, went 0-for-3 with a strikeout and a hard line-drive double play. Garneau went 0-for-2 with a strikeout against Hernandez, and is hitting .200.

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Both saw time in the Majors last season. Garneau, 28, a 19th-round pick in 2009, hit .157 with two home runs in 22 games after being called up Aug. 20. Murphy, 25, a third-rounder in 2012, came up in mid-September after Hundley sustained a neck injury and hit .257 with three homers in 11 games.

"It's the elephant in the room, definitely -- me and Murph know we're going at it, but I'm looking at it as trying to get ready for April 4," Garneau said, referring to the Rockies' opener at Arizona. "Wherever the cards fall, I'm ready to play wherever they have me. I want to do my best to show them what I can do and have them pick me for the backup job or send me to Triple-A."

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Both have favorable factors. Garneau's added overall experience could give him the edge when considering the irregular playing time a backup catcher receives, which theoretically would allow Murphy regular at-bats at Triple-A Albuquerque. Murphy brings greater potential power, having hit 22 homers in 2013 and, after an injury-shortened 2014, hit 23 homers in the Minors and Majors in 2015.

Like Garneau, Murphy focuses on his preparation.

"It's not anything that's really talked about, and it's not something I think about much," Murphy, MLBPipeline.com's No. 10 Rockies prospect, said. "I don't want an explanation from people at this point. I just want to play and compete."

Garneau hit .274 with 15 home runs and 61 RBIs at Albuquerque while simplifying his offensive approach. His Major League numbers didn't sparkle, but gave Garneau a clearer picture of what he needed.

"I've been working and talking with Blake [Doyle, the Rockies' hitting coach] on the type of hitter they want me to be, and I'm feeling really comfortable with the foundation," Garneau said. "It was a learning process up there, and I definitely understand how to be a lot more calm."

Murphy spent the offseason polishing his offensive and defensive setups. His offensive power comes naturally, so efficient contact is the next goal. Defensively, he is developing the nuanced receiving tools necessary to make sure borderline pitches are called strikes. Even with the adjustments, he has managed to stay athletic.

"You're not catching every day [in Spring Training], so you're still working on things, still trying to figure things out -- but very few people can roll out of bed and just make it happen," Murphy said. "But it gets better every day, especially when you get to catch six innings and you get used to the guys on the mound. I'm just trying to be consistent, and it's all learning to make adjustments."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.