Avila, Navarro working to learn pitching staff

New veteran catchers pleased with progress in camp

Avila, Navarro working to learn pitching staff

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Alex Avila was in brand new territory coming to White Sox camp, his first team other than the Tigers, and Dioner Navarro has hopped around a bit in recent years. But they have one thing in common: This spring is all about getting to know all the pitchers they can, and as well as they can.

From early bullpen sessions and games on Minor League fields to Cactus League exhibitions, both veteran catchers have been pleased with their progress in that area.

"It's been about as smooth as you could think," said Avila, who was drafted and developed by the Tigers but signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal with Chicago this offseason. "Basically, it was a priority that I caught as many guys as possible. I did a lot of homework in the offseason, watching video and talking to [pitching coach Don Cooper] about the pitching staff. I came in with a pretty good idea of what I was going to be seeing, and really everything's gone pretty smooth."

Navarro is with his seventh team and fifth in the last six years, so he knows all about coming into camp and getting right to work at acclimating to a new set of arms.

"It's the most important thing in Spring Training," said Navarro, a 32-year-old veteran of 11-plus seasons in the bigs. "I know personally as a catcher, that's my main goal in Spring Training. I want to get to know my guys, get to spend time with them, what they like, what they don't like, how they work. After that, it's just another day at the office."

Navarro on role with White Sox

White Sox manager Robin Ventura said he doesn't anticipate hooking up the veteran catchers with certain pitchers in the regular season. One example of that philosophy is that Avila caught lefty ace Chris Sale in a Minor League game earlier this week, and it was Navarro behind the plate for Sale's Cactus League debut Saturday.

For Ventura, it's key to make sure these two make the rounds, with both starters and relievers.

"They're both able to handle anybody," Ventura said. "But you want to make sure they're comfortable when a guy comes in and those guys are throwing the pitches that they're going to be throwing once the season starts."

It took Avila a couple of days to just feel comfortable with his new team and even the aspect of having Spring Training in Arizona as opposed to Florida. But a couple of days to adjust was all he needed.

"After that, everything's gone great. Baseball's baseball, it's the same everywhere," Avila said.

That's a lesson Navarro has learned over these last few well-traveled years.

"It's difficult to get accustomed to that, but after that I kind of got the gig and learned how to do it faster and doing it better, and just being myself," he said.

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnSchlegelMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.