Wolters benefits from presence of vet catchers

Young backstop, a converted infielder, learning from Lucroy, Hanigan

Wolters benefits from presence of vet catchers

DENVER -- Tony Wolters spent most of 2017 starting at catcher, but that changed when the Rockies acquired Jonathan Lucroy.

The Rockies demoted Wolters to Triple-A Albuquerque on Aug. 1, the day after the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Lucroy has started almost every game since, but Wolters is taking the opportunity to learn from the veteran catcher, in addition to the time he had earlier in the season with Ryan Hanigan.

"They're guys that have just been in the game catching," Wolters said. "Guys that have little tidbits here and there that they'll give you, and you always want to be by their side and just hear what they're saying, what they've got on each guy.

"It's like any other guys when there's older guys on the team, you just try to learn from them, pick their brains and try to get better."

Wolters hit .248/.345/.297 before his demotion, so the Rockies felt the need to upgrade with Lucroy. Wolters returned to the Majors on Aug. 22 when the Rockies placed Hanigan on the disabled list with a left groin strain.

Lucroy, meanwhile, entered Saturday's game against the D-backs with an OPS of .807 since arriving, becoming a consistent member of the lineup during a time in which most of the offense has struggled.

Wolters is like a sponge, Lucroy said, eager to absorb as much information as he can.

"I told him straight up the first time I met him a couple weeks ago, I said, 'Look, if you need anything, just talk to me, ask me. I don't care,'" Lucroy said. "He asks a lot of questions, sits in with us on the scouting meetings and takes notes. He's very serious about it."

Wolters studied solely under Hanigan early in the season, and the two formed a bond. The Rockies promoted Hanigan in May after Wolters went on the seven-day concussion disabled list.

Rockies manager Bud Black said Hanigan provided a critical early presence for Wolters, a converted infielder. But with more experience under his belt, Black said Wolters is coming into his own.

"Tony's been playing catchup in a short period of time," Black said of Wolters' conversion. "But having these two fellas here with Tony, it's been great for him. Tony is extremely thirsty to learn, he's got a strong desire and willingness to do everything he can to learn this position."

The Rockies have four catchers on their 40-man roster -- Wolters, Lucroy, Hanigan and Tom Murphy -- all of whom are in the Majors except Hanigan, as September allows extra roster room. Hanigan still hasn't returned from the disabled list, sliding Wolters into the backup role.

Communication is the biggest key when it comes to Wolters' development, the young catcher said.

"We're with each other every day, so it's conversational," Wolters said. "We don't have a meeting and have a study, it's just like casual 'Here, you might wanna do this in this situation.' Just very casual learning what they're trying to do."

Max Gelman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver and covered the Rockies on Saturday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.