Mike Lieberthal is Crash Davis, Sal Fasano is a starter, Chris Coste is a backup, and the Phillies are dangerously thin at catcher.
Before the season, I never thought Sal Fasano, the career back up and Triple-A catcher, would log more innings as the season went deeper. His signing figured to serve as a place-holder in case Carlos Ruiz emerged, or if they acquired another catcher.
Instead, due to two separate injuries to Mike Lieberthal, the 34-year-old veteran is seeing more action than ever. His career high in at bats came in 1998 with Kansas City - 216 of them. This season with the Phils, he already has 97.
Meanwhile, Ruiz, who struggled offensively with the Phils, continues to start every day for Scranton, filling innings at a position that has grown dangerously thin throughout the Phillies organization. During Ruiz’s earlier call-up, the Red Barons were forced to use a catcher whose previous experience was in the Gulf Coast League.
Here in Philadelphia, the position is equally thin. The Phillies placed Lieberthal on the 15-day disabled list yesterday, retroactive to June 6 with a left hip strain, and recalled right-handed pitcher Brian Sanches from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
With Chris Coste already on the roster, manager Charlie Manuel told mlb.com he was comfortable having Coste and Fasano as his catchers until Lieberthal returned. Coste has never been anything more than a part-time and emergency catcher in the minor leagues.
Looking to give Fasano a day off, Manuel handed the receiving duties to Coste yesterday, his first start behind the plate in the Majors. Coste went 0-for-3 and is still seeking his first big-league hit.
Even with a healthy Lieberthal, catcher is the worst position on the team, perhaps the worst position on any team in baseball. Phillies catchers have generated just three homers, all from Fasano. The highest ranking catcher, in terms of Win Shares, is still Lieberthal, who places just 27 in the National League. Fasano ranks 32. When Ruiz left, he was hitting just .143 with 1 RBI.
Fasano, who has just overtaken the team lead for starts, has not looked terrible defensively since some earlier struggles, and hit homers in consecutive nights last week. He also went 4-for-4 for the first time in his career.
Fasano had been assigned to Jon Lieber and Gavin Floyd, but is catching just about everyone now, including some impressive starts by Ryan Madson and Cole Hamels. Of all the pitchers in the rotation, he has handled Brett Myers with less frequency than the others. Fasano caught Myers' disappointing start on Friday.
Considering Lieberthal's rapidly erroding health, Fasano could be as good as it gets until 2007. Even then, the Phillies will be looking to fill two catcher positions possibly vacated by Fasano and Lieberthal, who become free agents.