Bandy maturing under former catcher Scioscia

Angels manager mentoring young backstop in first season in Majors

Bandy maturing under former catcher Scioscia

ANAHEIM -- When Angels manager Mike Scioscia has a positive and upbeat outlook for a catcher, they must be doing something right.

Just look at rookie Jett Bandy.

Bandy felt fortunate just to be picked in the 31st round of the 2011 Draft. Now, he's making the most of his opportunity to earn a role as the Angels' primary catcher.

"For me to get drafted, to have a chance, I know once I started my professional career, I always felt like I had something to prove, and I wanted to show them that I could play at the big league level," said Bandy, who has started nearly half of the team's games since being promoted from the Minor Leagues in May when Opening Day starter Geovany Soto went on the disabled list with a knee issue.

In Scioscia's eyes, Bandy continues to prove he belongs in the Majors. That became evident when Angels management decided to keep Bandy around when Soto returned from the DL in June.

"We've seen him really embrace the defensive part of his game," said Scioscia, noting Bandy's improvement handling game plans and the pitching staff. "He has a terrific arm, and he's working hard back there with all the things that a catcher needs to do. I think you can see in his bat, he has some pop, and he's swung the bat well."

Bandy's solo home run

Bandy, 26, has hit .261/.310/.472 with six doubles, eight home runs and 23 RBIs in 47 games (40 starts). The offensive production is a plus, but a catcher's value extends beyond the batter's box.

"I'm a catcher first," Bandy said. "I'm just trying to do the best I can behind the plate. I'm going to call 150 pitches a game, at least, and I might get four at-bats, so my emphasis is definitely on calling a good game and doing the best I can with the pitching staff.

"At the plate, just not trying to think too much, just keep things simple."

Of course, it helps to have a manager who excelled as a catcher in the Majors, as Scioscia did with the Dodgers during his playing days in the 1980s and early '90s.

"He sees everything you do," Bandy said. "Especially as a younger catcher, he's going to let you know what you did wrong, but he's also going to let you know what you did right, and that's something you definitely need as a young catcher coming through the system just trying to get better every day."

Bandy's nice throw nabs Rizzo

In fact, Scioscia first coached Bandy in 1999 as a 10-year-old in Little League. Bandy grew up in Thousand Oaks, Calif., roughly 75 miles northwest of Angel Stadium. The Scioscias were in nearby Westlake Village, and Bandy was a Little League teammate of Scioscia's son, Matt.

Naturally, Scioscia enjoys working closely with his catchers, rookie or veteran, though he admitted it's been special to see Bandy rise through the organization over the past five years.

"I think when you have a guy who comes through your system and you've seen him and you see him start to make strides, I think it gives you a good feeling of when you start to develop young prospects and catchers, in particular, that come up to the Major Leagues and do well," Scioscia said.

Bandy figures to get steady playing time over the final six weeks of the season, with Soto back on the DL with knee problems and the Angels wanting to get a look at younger players who could become part of the solution going forward.

"Definitely, my mind-set is to finish strong," Bandy said. "It's not how you start. It's how you finish. I feel like I've got something to prove every day. You're either going to get better, or you're going to get worse. I definitely want to get better. You get evaluated every day in this game and you can't take a day off."

Scioscia and the Angels like what they've seen so far.

Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.