LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, who celebrated his 25th birthday on Friday, continues to come of age as he prepares for his first full big league season. The Oklahoma native is among the more athletic catchers in the game, offering speed and some power potential.
In the second inning of Friday's 6-5 walk-off loss to the Braves at Champion Stadium, Realmuto blistered a double to center. He would have had a standup triple, but the ball rolled under the outfield wall.
"I think he's one of those special guys," manager Don Mattingly said. "You don't see many catchers as athletic as he is. I like his swing. There is really nothing not to like."
At this time last year, Realmuto was sent to the Minors because Miami was prepared to go with Jarrod Saltalamacchia as the starter. But when the veteran struggled in April, Realmuto was promoted after just three games at Triple-A New Orleans.
With the starting job his, Realmuto is progressing without having to look over his shoulder. The difference from last year to now?
"I'm probably getting more work in than I usually do," Realmuto said. "But it's just not having to worry about who's watching me, or looking over my shoulder to see who's watching batting practice. Or in the game, not worrying about, 'Oh, I've got to do this to impress somebody.' Kind of knowing I can come out here just trying to get better every day."
The one area of his game that needed more development is framing pitches. According to Baseball Prospectus, Realmuto's receiving cost the club 15 runs in 2015.
"Last year, I know the metrics on him on his framing and stuff were down," Mattingly said. "I think that's something we probably put more time on this spring and made sure he sees video and things like that, and make sure he knows what that's all about."
Realmuto spent much of his offseason and the first month of Spring Training working on it.
"I'm getting there," Realmuto said. "We still have two more weeks to work, obviously. I already feel 10 times better right now than I did at the end of last year. I've kind of gotten rid of some of the bad habits I've created, which I think are going to help me a lot with my receiving."
The changes behind the plate are subtle, and the adjustments are coming naturally. By his own admission, Realmuto did some things that created "bad habits" in his positioning.
To correct himself, he's getting in the proper pre-pitch position and staying there.
"[Before] I would be in the right position, and then move my glove and put myself in a bad position, which made me late to pitches," Realmuto said.
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.