The Angels have suffered offensively at the catcher position for years. They willingly accepted the offensive shortcomings of Jeff Mathis for six seasons, including last year, because of the way he worked with the pitching staff defensively. However, the team finally decided to move to upgrade from the career .194 hitting Mathis this off-season as they traded their long-time catcher to Toronto and made a deal that sent young pitcher Tyler Chatwood to Colorado for the free-swinging backstop Chris Ianetta. The new catcher brings a career .235 batting average with good pop and a cerebral catching style that has made him successful in Colorado. The move is nearly unilaterally seen as an upgrade from Mathis, but at least one Angel is going to miss the departed Mathis behind the plate.
Angels’ ace Jared Weaver has worked almost exclusively over the last couple of seasons. During that time, Weaver has come into his own and become of the top pitchers in baseball. After working with the new guy for the first time this spring, Weaver pined for his departed former catcher:
“I’m definitely going to miss Jeff. When you’ve had that kind of relationship with somebody, you pretty much know what each other’s thinking and what each other wants to do,” Weaver said. “It’s going to be a little different, no doubt about it, when you get a new guy — the way he catches a ball, the way he sets up, the way he calls a game.
“I mean, it’s all going to be different, so it’s going to take a little while to get on the same page, but he’s a workhorse. He wants to win, he’s a competitor and he wants to get better.”
The first outing went off without a hitch. Weaver pitched two scoreless innings, working his way out of a bases loaded jam while using nothing but fastball and changeup for his first outing this spring.
Familiarity may be comforting for Weaver, but the chemistry between he and Iannetta will come in time. The extra bat in the lineup will be a huge boost for the Angels going forward, and everybody will quickly forget the spot was Mathis’ for so long…no matter how familiar some pitchers were with him.