Conger working on mechanics behind plate

Conger working on mechanics behind plate

BOSTON -- Rays catcher Hank Conger has not thrown out a baserunner since nabbing J.B. Shuck of the White Sox on May 27. Conger still wore an Astros uniform at the time, finishing the season on an 0-for-37 streak before moving to the Rays in the offseason.

The Red Sox stole two bases with Conger behind the plate on Wednesday night, which translated to an 0-for-9 start with the Rays, extending his streak to 0-for-46.

Many variables decide whether a would-be basestealer successfully steals or not. Did the pitcher hold him on? How quickly did the pitcher release the pitch? Where was the pitch located? Variables aside, Conger and the Rays are working together to address the elements of throwing out runners that Conger can control.

"Well, we've been working on some footwork and some handwork and getting him to be consistent every time he throws a baseball," said Jamie Nelson, the Rays' catching coach.

In a sense, a catcher and his mechanics are similar to those of a pitcher who needs to learn how to repeat his delivery.

"But the difference is a pitcher can stop and start at the same point," Nelson said. "With the catcher, the balls are all over the place."

Nelson has been working with Conger since the beginning of Spring Training.

"You have to clean the upper and lower half [of the body] up first," said Nelson.

"He's done a good job of getting his lower half into it in comparisons to the videos I'd seen prior to this season," Nelson said. "He's really worked hard on it and he's gotten quicker. He is a hard worker. A really hard worker. I think that the team loves him. Everybody has said nothing but good things about his character."

Nelson acknowledged that Conger is in the midst of an odd streak, though.

"It's a combination of things," Nelson said. "Sometimes when you know you have that streak, you put pressure on yourself to get out of it.

"The last thing you want to do is to be thinking about a streak like that. You start rushing when you want to be quick, but under control. He's got more in there and I think the way he had been throwing, it gets in your head and all of a sudden you're trying to reach back and load for bear when that takes longer instead of trusting getting your feet under you and playing quick catch."

Rays manager Kevin Cash allowed that Conger's plight adds pressure to the pitchers in regard to what they can control.

"Because it's part of their game," said Cash, pointing out that no matter who is catching, it's the pitcher's job to help control the running game. "They know that. We all have to make adjustments. So we've asked some of them to make some adjustments. Hold the ball. Speed up, or whatever it is."

The bottom line, said Cash, is "we've got to do a better job on those guys when they get on base."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.