05/08/08 2:53 PM ET
Molina's presence proves invaluable
With Posada out, Yanks glad to have capable veteran at catcher
By Kit Stier / Special to MLB.com
Molina, a defensive specialist, isn't known for his bat. Then again, he said on Thursday, since he's always been a backup, no one really knows what he might show if he were to play as a regular.
"At this time in my career, that's what I'm going to be," said Molina, who came to the Yankees in a trade with the Angels last July and then signed a two-year contract in December. "I can fill in for two weeks, three weeks, a month, a month-and-a-half. That doesn't mean I'm an everyday catcher. I realize what my job is. When you have that back there [in your mind], then other things don't bother you."
Molina was batting just .219 with no home runs and three RBIs entering Thursday's finale with the Indians, but his defense since starter Jorge Posada went on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis on April 28 has been a big plus. Molina has thrown out 11 of the 38 runners who have tried to steal on his watch.
He threw out one Indians runner from his knees on Wednesday, and made a sensational double play in a bases-loaded situation late in the same game by pouncing on a dribbler in front of the plate, backtracking to touch the plate and firing to first for the third out.
"We are very, very lucky," said Yankees first-base coach Tony Pena, a former catcher. "I've said before that whenever you have a backup catcher like Molina, it's like having two regular catchers. Thank God right now with Posada down."
Pena agrees that because Molina has no great aspirations, at age 32, to become a starter, that it makes it easier to go about the job he has been signed on to do.
"There is no question about that," Pena said. "The way he thinks helps him so much, because he knows what he has to do. He knows what he has to do to stay sharp, especially throwing and blocking balls. We go out and work on that to keep him in shape. And the main thing about him is he knows what to do and he knows what he needs to do to stay in shape.
"If you think [about it], around baseball there aren't too many backup catchers like Molina is."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi has been impressed with the way Molina, Posada and current No. 2 catcher Chad Moeller have worked together. Posada and Molina were seen talking on the bench about Chien-Ming Wang when the right-hander was pitching against Cleveland on Wednesday.
"They are just talking about what he needs to be right," Girardi said, glad that his players don't let little things slip by.
Like Pena, Girardi is glad to have Molina.
"His defense has been good," the manager said. "Jose knows what his job is. He's going to add offensively, but what his first job is is defense."
Molina smiled when asked what he'd rather have, a game in which he went 4-for-4 with a few RBIs, or the kind of defensive game that drew him raves on Wednesday.
"You'd take both," he said. "But when the game doesn't go the way you want with the bat, you have to concentrate on your defense. You can't look like you're doing nothing out there."
Be sure, Molina never looks like that.
"I'm just a player, I'm a catcher," Molina said. "I do my defense. I work hard on it."
Kit Stier is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.