As it turns out, the only thing “angry” associated with him were the birds he was flinging at various structures on his iPad on Thursday afternoon.
The 30-year-old Venezuelan-born backstop has spent parts of four out of the last five seasons in the big leagues with five different teams, and spent all but three games of his 2011 season with Triple-A Scranton. When spring training started, it seemed like all but a foregone conclusion that he and Austin Romine would split time there this year as well.
But then all hell broke loose on the organization’s catching depth chart. The Yankees claimed Craig Tatum off of waivers, traded for Chris Stewart, sent Francisco Cervelli to Triple-A and lost Romine for an as yet to be determined amount of time with a recurring back injury. Molina was given the option of reporting to Double-A or going home.
So, for the first time since 2007, Molina will be in Double-A.
“You never know what can happen,” said Molina, who occupied the locker usually reserved for rehabbing big leaguers.
“I think they know that they’re doing the best for the team. For myself, I’m here to play ball and get better.”
He was at the airport in Tampa waiting to fly out to Lehigh Valley to meet the Triple-A team there when he got the news that he had the option of coming to Trenton instead. But he insists it’s all just part of the game.
“Just being active and playing, that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “If you’re healthy, you can do something. If you’re hurt, you can’t do anything. I just need to be here and enjoy my time here…the Yankees (sign) my checks, I have to go wherever they send me.”
For now, he’ll be playing at Waterfront Park, however. And Thunder manager Tony Franklin is pleased his new catcher came in with the right attitude.
“We spoke earlier this afternoon, and I’m sure the move caught him by surprise. It caught me a little bit by surprise this morning,” he said.
“It’s part of the dynamics of the game. I’m sure that he’s a little disappointed, but you’ve got to get going, regardless of how you feel personally. We talked about that issue, and he was OK with it. Hopefully, he’ll be fine.”
Molina isn’t even guaranteed to be the starting catcher in Trenton this season — Franklin would not commit to that when asked — despite having MLB time with the Orioles, White Sox, Red Sox, Mets and most recently, the Yankees, for whom he played in three games last season. Jose Gil was projected as the team’s regular catcher, and got the Opening Day start.
To his credit, while many are feeling bad for Molina, he refuses to feel bad for himself, instead thinking about former teammate Cervelli.
“He went through a lot of hurt in spring training,” he said. “But he’s taken it like a man and he’s moved forward and is trying to get better out there.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com