Two weeks into spring training, a couple of teams are already looking to fill holes at catcher.
The Houston Astros have the more immediate need for help, as they've lost the man expected to be their starting backstop this season — Jason Castro(notes) could miss all of 2011 after suffering a torn ACLL in his right knee on Wednesday.
"The recovery for ACL and meniscus is about six months plus conditioning," general manager Ed Wade said. "There's going to be things as a catcher he's not going to be able to do. We're looking at sometime in September before he'll be back playing."
Castro hurt himself trying to avoid a tag at first base against the Detroit Tigers and stepped awkwardly on the bag. The injury was initially diagnosed as a sprain, but a MRI exam on Thursday revealed that the damage was far worse, finding tears to both the ACL and medial meniscus. Surgery to repair the injuries was performed Friday morning in Houston.
Where do the Astros go from here? Humberto Quintero(notes) and J.R. Towles(notes) are both already in camp, and that combo was good enough until Castro was ready to become the starter last year. McTaggert lists a handful of other names the team could pursue, including Ryan Doumit(notes), who was pushed to the outfield in Pittsburgh. (Pirates beat writer Jennifer Langosch is also connecting the dots between the Astros and Doumit.) The Pirates would probably have to eat some of the more than $12 million Doumit is owed over the next two seasons to get a deal done, though.
Another catcher that might draw some interest is Bengie Molina(notes), who still has yet to sign with a team after a rather impressive postseason with the Texas Rangers. But his age (36), poor regular season numbers (.623 OPS), Type A free agent status and desire to make what he did last year ($4 million) is keeping him on the shelf.
The New York Yankees could also be looking for catching help after losing Francisco Cervelli(notes) to a broken foot that's expected to keep him out 6-8 weeks. Cervelli hurt himself on Wednesday, fouling a ball off his foot in a game versus the Astros. The injury was originally thought to be a bruise, but a review of MRI scans found the break later.
But better depth at catcher should keep the Yankees covered. Cervelli was in the race to be the team's backup behind Russell Martin(notes), competing with top prospect Jesus Montero(notes) for the job. (Jorge Posada(notes) is now the Yanks' full-time DH, and putting him back behind the plate apparently isn't an option.) Austin Romine and Gustavo Molina(notes) are also in camp for the Yankees.
Montero has been emerging as the favorite to win a spot on the roster anyway, so perhaps losing Cervelli won't present much of a problem. Yankees GM Brian Cashman dismissed the notion that Montero would be kept in the minors until later in the season to prolong his major league service time.