Mets Spring Training Question 13: Third-string Catcher

With pitchers and Molinas reporting to Port St. Lucie in 13 days, Mets question #13 is this: who is — as Jerry Manuel might ask — the backup to the backup backstop?

We already know that Mike Nickeas is the backup catcher to starter Josh Thole. But what happens if either Nickeas or Thole go down with an injury? Who is next in line?

Sure, there are more pressing matters to deal with during spring training, but it’s still a fair question, and one that needs to be answered in the six weeks between mid-February and Opening Day. And I’m not even sure who the Mets have as candidates.

There are two “non-roster” invitees to spring training who are catchers: Lucas May and Rob Johnson. Neither is particularly auspicious. I think the Mets still have Dusty Ryan, who toiled in Buffalo and Binghamton last year. German-born Kai Gronauer is presumably an option. Further down the line are youngsters Francisco Pena and Juan Centeno, two 22-year-olds who are nowhere near ready for prime time.

If you ask me, I don’t have an answer; I have no idea what might separate May from Johnson from Ryan from Gronauer — they’re all unknown quantities to me. But, I imagine someone will show something during spring training to surge ahead as the Mets #3 catcher, ready and waiting in Buffalo.

What do you know about these backstops? Can you clue me in on who might have the inside track, and why?

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. mic February 7, 2012 at 7:13 am
    Joe: So what FA options are left?
    • Joe Janish February 7, 2012 at 11:07 pm
      Mic, I don’t know that it matters what FAs are left, as the Mets are unlikely to be signing any. Pudge Rodriguez and Jason Varitek remain unsigned. Jason Kendall might still be out there. Charlie O’Brien? Jim Essian? Ron Hodges? Not much out there.
  2. DaveSchneck February 7, 2012 at 10:51 am
    If Thole or Nickeas go down, Joe Janish should break out the tools of ignorance.
    • Joe Janish February 7, 2012 at 11:07 pm
      I sleep in my shin guards, just in case I get an early morning call.
  3. Reese February 7, 2012 at 11:12 am
    You left out the most interesting bat of the bunch — Vinny Rottino. At 32 and not having 50 ABs in the big leagues, it’s unlikely he’s ever going to be anything but a backup, but his numbers in the minors are fairly eye-popping. I’m guessing his ability to play the corner infield and outfield positions as well are either an indictment of his fielding abilities or he was simply trying to increase his versatility in hopes of getting promoted.

    He doesn’t strike out much, has a little power and is a lifetime .295 hitter. I’d surely like to see what he can do behind the dish.

    • Joe Janish February 7, 2012 at 11:09 pm
      Good call, Reese. I was thrown off because the Mets have him listed as an outfielder. Thanks for adding him to the list.
  4. mic February 7, 2012 at 3:25 pm
    Isnt there a Molina that will come to Spring training with us?
    • Joe Janish February 7, 2012 at 11:12 pm
      With so many one would think so. What is Bengie doing these days?
  5. jerseymet February 7, 2012 at 6:38 pm
    Ramon Castro is unsigned.
    • Joe Janish February 7, 2012 at 11:13 pm
      True. But isn’t he too large to leave his house?
  6. Joe February 8, 2012 at 2:13 am
    Who’s the emergency catcher if they both go down before Dusty Ryan or someone is called up?
  7. argonbunnies February 8, 2012 at 4:38 am
    Interesting. I wonder if it’d be worth signing Varitek just to have a guy around who remembers what winning feels like. Or Kendall could up our toughness quotient by walking into some pitches.

    Yeah, I’m looking for intangibles, because all the tangibles are as underwhelming as our current options. Rob Johnson can’t hit at all, and while some praise his D, others trash it.

    Pudge’s arm is still good…

    • HobieLandrith February 8, 2012 at 1:42 pm
      How about Hobie Landrith? Would be fitting for the 50th anniversary celebration.
  8. Kathie solie February 10, 2012 at 11:17 pm
    Mets followers and fans are in for a pleasant surprise. Vinny Rottino is for real . He is strong at every position he plays… Steals bases like crazy… Has a good bat and on base percentage is strong. He works his tail off. He is very, very bright and a hell of a catcher! He can be a whole lot more than a back up, given a chance. Signing him may be the smartest thing the Mets have done in a long time. Prepare to love him.