Catching on at the Position: An Interview with Jose Trevino
The stat sheet will show that Hickory Crawdads catcher Jose Trevino put up a .262/.291/.415 slash in 2015. His 14 homers were one behind teammate Luke Tendler for the team lead. Generally, he put the ball in play with a manageable 60 strikeouts in 449 plate appearances, though the 18 walks could perhaps use a bump.
Behind the plate, Trevino was a steady force. He caught 87 games – the fourth most in a Crawdads single-season and the most since the affiliation with the Texas Rangers began in 2009 – and in that span he put up some remarkable defensive numbers. Trevino committed only six errors and nine passed balls this season and set the club’s single season and overall fielding pct. mark (.992, minimum 70 games). He threw out 33.7% of runners trying to steal.
Several pitchers this season have raved about his game calling ability. In an interview with Luis Ortiz after his start on June 9, he said of his catcher, ”I thank Trevino, because he’s the one who called the game for me. I believe in my catcher. I go with him and I trust him. That’s how pitchers should be: trust their catchers.”
After Collin Wiles threw seven shutout innings against Augusta on July 18, he credited Trevino with a game plan that included only three first-pitch fast balls during the first time through the lineup.
“That was kind of Jose’s plan from the start,” said Wiles after the start. “He told me in our pre-game meeting that this is a team that likes the fastball, so stay with me. I trust him 100% and we put up seven zeros.”
Not bad for a guy who was mostly a shortstop in his junior season at Oral Roberts.
With all of the accolades of his play, it’s the relationships that he brings to the clubhouse and on the field that arguably has had the biggest impact on the 2015 Crawdads. On the various trips I take to the clubhouse, there’s little doubt that one of the guys in charge of the space is Trevino. He’s always engaged with someone, whether it’s a video from the night before, a card game, or an occasional prank. You’ll rarely see Trevino alone in the clubhouse. (Honestly, I can’t recall seeing that.)
Trevino seemingly is a second pitching coach on the team. His mound visits nearly always produce a positive outcome from the pitcher in the sequence to come.
In the interview below, Trevino talks about his first full-season work as a catcher, including his preparation for this season along with mound visits and the ability to keep pitchers relaxed. He also talks about the progress of some of the Crawdads pitchers this season.
First of all, I want to talk about your season in catching where you didn’t do a whole lot of it in college. You’ve now caught 87 games, which is the most here by a Rangers affiliated catcher. How have you held up for a first full season?
Trevino: Good. I think the main thing was to listen to my body. I know that off-season workouts had a lot to do with it. I had a good trainer back at home. I told him, “Now, I’m going to need my legs up under me when it comes to September and playoff time. I’m really going to need my legs and need that extra gear.” He said, “Alright, we’re just going to work your legs and we’re going to get them to where you want them to be.”
Last year, I kind of died out a little bit just because I was getting tired and my legs were getting tired from a long college season. Now, I feel good. I feel like my legs are up under me. I feel fine other than some cuts and bruises from nagging injuries from being a catcher, my legs are fine and everything’s good. I’m ready to go.
How much weight have you lost this year?
Trevino: I think I’ve dropped two or three pounds. I really try to stay on top of it, especially since that will carry you and help you out a little bit more.
What’s been the biggest challenge for you in converting to being a full-time catcher?
Trevino; When I first started catching last year, I guess it was my bat, balancing out hitting and catching. You can’t take your hitting to your catching because it’s going to affect the whole team; it’ll affect the game. If you try to square up a circle and a circle, it’s hard enough to do already. Then you go out there and you try to catch 90-plus that’s sinking and moving, it really affects you and really wears off on you.
What did you have to learn as far as dealing with pitchers?
Trevino: Just learning how they like to pitch guys. Learning what their best pitch was. Learning what their best put-away pitch was. Learning what they like to go to when they’re ahead and when they’re behind, and in certain counts what they like to do – what every guy likes to do. So now, you can ask me what every guy likes to do and I can probably tell you what pitch they want to go to and I think they’ll agree with it.
Who did you have help you with that? Or was that something that you figured out on your own?
Trevino: I mean the Rangers go through a whole thing where you’ve got to know your pitchers. You have to know your pitches, especially if you want to play in this game, you have to know what they want and what they like. You just kind of catch onto it. Since you catch the same guys over and over and over again, I know what kind of pitches they’ll want to go to. I can see in the bullpen what’s been working. I can see throughout the game what’s been working maybe in a situation with the hitter and their best stuff. I’m going to take their (pitcher) best stuff over the hitter’s best stuff any day.
I’m going to ask an oddball kind of question. Did you take psychology in college? The reason I ask is that you are so good with mound visits. You just seem to have a sense of when to go and make a visit. Things seem to happen and you’re able to say the right things in a visit.
Trevino: I didn’t take psychology in college, but I took a class, kind of like a managing class – sports management, pretty much. It was learning how to go through things and learning what you could say to some people. Some people it’s a pat on the back and it’s fine. Other you guys it’s, “Hey, you’ve got to figure it out now, because we’ll get somebody else in here.”
You know how to handle certain guys. You know, you’re used it. You get up there and you see the look on some of their faces like, “I’ve got this. I’m fine. You’re just up here because you want to calm me down a little bit.” Other guys, there’s going to be certain guys that are like, “All right, let’s go,” and they’re hyped up. I’m like, “Calm down a little bit. You’re fine. Relax. Get this guy out. It’s easy. It’s going to be easy for you.”
I have other things I’ll say to other guys out there. You’ve just got to pay attention to their reactions. If they’re laughing, I’ll probably go out there and tell them something funny that probably didn’t have anything to do with baseball. I’ll tell them something and they’ll just be like, “Why did you just tell me that?” and I’ll just walk off.
What’s the oddest thing you’ve said to a pitcher?
Trevino: (long pause) I know, but I probably wouldn’t say it. I’ve said some funny things pretty much.
There are some clubs in development that the pitches are called from the dugout. I know the Rangers pretty much expect the catchers to make the calls from the plate. How much of a learning curve did you have in doing that after perhaps having not done it at college?
Trevino: In college, I didn’t do it at all. Our coach gave us the signs and I put them down. And if our pitchers shook, I looked back at our coach and here we go. So, I had to learn that, too. I had to learn to call the game. I had to learn that it wasn’t to pitch other hitters the way I liked to hit or what I wouldn’t like to hit. It’s what they (hitters) don’t want to hit – what they don’t like to swing at. What they won’t swing at. What they’ll take, but have a bad swing at, and then you go from there.
If some guys are pulling off on the fastball away, you can go with another pitch there in that situation. You learn to read these things. You learn to pay attention more and that’s what I like about catching.
You’re in the game 24/7. You’re looking at everything because you come back into the dugout and you’re talking about hitters with the pitcher and the pitching coach. But then you’ve got to pay attention to the pitcher that’s pitching on the mound and you’ve got to pay attention to the situation that’s going on in the game. You’re in the game and you’re the quarterback. You call the shots.
With me, I don’t have any problem with taking the blame for a pitch that I called. I’ll turn to the dugout and say, “It’s my fault. All right let’s go, move on.”
How did it come about that you shifted from shortstop to catcher?
Trevino: I don’t know. I caught Alex Gonzalez in college on Fridays. He would come in and throw and that’s basically how much I would catch in college. I was also beat up in college. I had a messed up ankle, messed up foot. I was catching “Chi Chi”. I toughed it out and it was fine and it was good and I liked it.
People would come and talk to me and say, “Hey, we know you’re an infielder; we know you’re a third baseman and you can play anywhere.” And I’m like, “Yeah, I’ve heard that one too.” They said, “What about catching?” And I said, “I liked it.” They’d ask me, “What do you think the biggest transition would be?” I said, “Separating my offense from my defense.”
Sure enough, you learn – and that comes from maturity – you learn to grow up real fast. I’ll rarely come in and be mad about an at-bat and take it out there. Once I get that last pitch and I say, “It’s coming down.” I’ll throw to second and that’s it. I don’t want to take the shine away from the pitcher that’s on the mound, because it’s his job. He’s trying to put money in his pocket. He’s trying to food on the table for his family, and I don’t want to be the guy responsible for not having his best stuff out there because I missed a block or I missed a fastball coming at me.
Who’s been the biggest help as far as teaching you as a catcher?
Trevino: I’d say all the catching coordinators, Chad Comer especially. He’s been with me through this whole season. He’s fixed so many things hitting wise and catching wise. He’s given me little tips.
Chris Briones, he’s also helped me a lot. He’s a guy that will instill a lot more confidence in me. He’ll just feed you confidence. When he comes during the year, it’s like, “Hey, I’m here to fill you with confidence.” You’re running a little low on gas and he’s like, “No, we’re going to refill you, you’re fine.”
Hector Ortiz. I talked to Hector Ortiz last year at instructs. He said, “We’ve got to work this if you really want to do this and get into it.” I said, “I want to do this.”
Ryley Westman, he was here last year with the Rangers – he’s with the Padres now. He really got me into catching a ton.
Whenever I walk into the clubhouse, there are certain guys that are in charge, and you’re one of those. What has been the key of keeping the clubhouse together, especially in the second half when there’s been so much movement of guys in and out?
Trevino: Just having fun. You’ve just got to have fun with everybody. When a new guy comes in, you don’t want him just have him sit there on his chair. You might play a joke on him. I’m the one that plays the jokes. I’ll play a joke on him right away and I’ll get him and everybody will see how he reacts and see what kind of guy is he. If he’ll laugh and shake it off, everybody will say, “He’s a good dude.”
We have a bunch of good dudes in there and we all take everything good. They’re fun guys and they know we’re a fun club. Everybody that comes into this clubhouse and everybody that leaves and goes somewhere else, they’re like, “Man, Hickory was so fun.” I think that has a lot to do with our skip, with Ragsdale. He really likes to keep it loose, too. But when it comes game time, we’re going to play.
Let me talk about pitching a little bit. Who has impressed you the most as far where they started in April or maybe into May when they got here to now? Who’s made the biggest jump ahead?
Trevino: Brett Martin. He developed a curveball – a good curveball.
Chris Dula. He has a lot of stuff that plays in AA and AAA. I caught big league guys in spring training and Dula has some stuff in his arsenal. He goes and he keeps working, he has a chance to be really good.
Lulu Ortiz. Stuff wise, mentally wise, he’s locked in ready to go all the time. Every time he goes out there, he’s locked in and ready to go.
I can go up and down the list. I feel like every pitcher has gotten better. Nobody has taken a step back. Everybody has been going forward and forward and forward. Even if it’s a little step, it’s a big step to us.
For me it’s been Scott Williams. Your thoughts?
Trevino: Oh yeah. I caught him actually in my pre-draft workout for the Rangers when we were in Arlington together.
I have a funny story with Scott. They asked me, “Hey, do you want to get some at-bats against Williams.” I was like, “How hard do you throw?” He said, “97”. I said, “Ah, I think I’m just going to sit back here and catch for a little bit.” They were like, “Ok, that’s all right.” I got drafted and then I found out he got draft and I thought, “Sweet.”
He’s been really good and he has that kind of mentality that you can’t teach people. He’s ready to play. If you look down in the bullpen in the fourth or fifth inning, he’s out here stretching because he knows that if we get the lead in the seventh, the eighth, the ninth, he’s going to come in and he’s going to shut it down. In his head, he’s going to shut it down. There are no negative thought in that head.
With nothing to really play for, has there been any let down as you guys get into August and think, let’s get into the playoffs?
Trevino: No. Everybody’s taking a step forward in their game mentality wise, in like they’re ready to play every day. It’s not just for themselves, but for everybody on the team. I want to do good for Luke (Tendler). I want to do good for the pitcher. I want to do good for Profar. I want to do good for Ragsdale. I want to do good for Comer. I want to do good for everybody around me. I feel like that’s what everybody has here. Everybody wants to get everybody better.
Last thing. You guys have won the championship because this happened?
Trevino: Execute. We just have to execute. We have it. We’re a good team, a really good team. No matter who you bring in, it’s going to be a good team here. We have a bunch of good players and everybody’s going to have fun doing it. If we just execute, we’ll be all right.