He’s 35. That’s the age most catchers are winding down. Or breaking down. Or being sent down, and just trying to hang on for a little more glory.
But at the unripe age of 35, Jeff Mathis is, for the first time in his career, going to be asked to be the front-line catcher.
In fourteen years, he has played more than 81 games a season three times. Never more than 94. About 64 games a season is his average. Chris Woodward said they are hoping to get 80 games out of him.
This speaks volumes to the catching in the Rangers system. It’s as deep as a Hollywood agent.
And, as added responsibility, Mathis is also going to asked to mentor. So, he’s a quasi-player coach.
Mathis said he is up for the challenge. “I’m here to help and do whatever I can to make whoever better.” It’s almost as if he’s surprised he’s the leading man after so many years of being relegated to a cameo appearance. Imagine if they told the guy who played the unseen neighbor on Home Improvement that he was now going to star in his own series.
A career .198 hitter, with a career .258 on-base percentage and a career .564 OPS is why Mathis has had a career that can truly be worthy of the term backup.
You have to be a really good catcher to be such a monumentally bad hitter. And Mathis has that reputation. According the T.R. Sullivan, the other catchers in the Rangers minor league camp, six and counting, already have a nickname for Mathis: The Wizard.
It will be a weird camp for Rangers catchers. Four lifelong backup catchers (Mathis, Jett Bandy, Tony Sanchez, the newly signed Adam Moore) one catcher trying to get his first taste of the big league (Jose Treviño) and one guy learning the position (Isiah Kiner-Falefa).
Mathis is also being asked to mentor the Rangers’ pitching staff. It is not known if he can perform emergency Tommy John surgeries. With this pitching staff, he needs a medical bag as much as he needs catcher’s gear.