Bengie Speaks His Mind
It sounds like Jays manager John Gibbons needs to sit down and discuss the catching situation with Bengie Molina and Gregg Zaun. That’s whats Molina said to me this morning, anyway. Molina doesn’t seem to understand why his playing time has suddenly decreased and he hasn’t been happy about it.
I tried to talk to Molina about the issue on Wednesday. I walked over to his locker, which was tucked behind a pole inside the visitor’s clubhouse at Yankee Stadium. I asked him if he had a few minutes and he said, "Not right now," with his head down. Considering that Molina wasn’t in uniform yet and he was in the starting lineup, I just figured it was poor timing on my part. It turns out that he wasn’t in the best mood.
Today, Bengie pulled me aside and apologized for not making time on Wednesday. He said he was upset and answering questions was the last thing he wanted to do when I went up to him. It was a much different story today. Now, don’t confuse Molina’s comments with the "Hillengate" saga that swept Toronto more than a week ago now. Bengie was quiet and calm through the 15-minute interview I had with him today and he wasn’t attacking Gibbons or GM J.P. Ricciardi. Molina also wasn’t knocking Zaun at all. He was merely expressing his frustration with his current situation.
Molina’s start on Wednesday was his only start in the past week, which includes six games. Gibbons said there wasn’t anything to it, but Molina seemed to feel differently. If there isn’t anything to it, Gibbons probably should fill Molina in on the reasoning. Likewise, Zaun hasn’t been told he’s going to get the majority of the playing time now, either. He’s started four games behind the plate this past week and Jason Phillips caught when Dustin McGowan started, but that was because they paired up many times in Triple-A.
One thing to look at, too, is that the Jays have only faced one lefty in the past week — Barry Zito — and that was the day Gibbons wanted Phillips to catch McGowan. Gibbons has liked to use Molina versus lefties and Zaun, who has more pop from the left side, against righties. That being said, Molina was still getting about two-thirds of the playing time when the season began.
Maybe this is all a coincidence — Molina not starting much during this current stretch. Maybe Gibbons really doesn’t have any ulterior motives. Whatever the truth may be, Molina seems to think the general opinion is that his defense has slipped, which is something he doesn’t think is true. All I can do as a reporter is look at the numbers and watch the games and I don’t think Molina has looked as good as he did a few years back with the Angels. Maybe it has to do with him not playing as regularly as he thought he would, maybe it has to do with learning a new pitching staff for the first time, maybe it has something to do with him not being particularly happy, or maybe it’s none or all of the above.
Maybe he’s right about still clocking 1.8 seconds on throws to second base. A lot of times, the success rate of throwing out baserunners has to do with the pitching staff. Zaun’s caught-stealing numbers aren’t great, either, but Molina used to throw out runners at an unbelievable pace when he was in Anaheim. One thing I do agree on with Molina is that not all of the passed balls he’s been charged with have been his fault. Take Lilly’s recent start in Oakland, for example. Lilly admitted that he crossed Molina up by throwing a fastball when the catcher was looking for a slider. Lilly took the blame — Molina got charged in the books. That’s the way it goes sometimes.
Molina is the first to admit that Gibbons has been put in a tough position: He has two catchers who believe they should be the No. 1 option. One thing is for sure, if both Molina and Zaun remain unhappy with their situation, there’s a chance — a likely one, too — that Toronto will lose both catchers before next season. It sounds to me like the two catchers and Gibbons — a former catcher himself — need to discuss the issue and provide some clarity, at least among each other.