ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The first time I ever spoke to J.P. Arencibia in person was Feb. 25, 2009 in the Blue Jays clubhouse at the Bobby Mattick† facility across the bridge in Dunedin.†
"For what?" asked the Blue Jays catcher of the future way back then in '09.†
"On being the Jays catcher of the future."
"Yeah," Arencibia said, "I've read that a few times."†
That was the good news.
And the bad news?†
Being the Jays catcher of the future.
We told Arencibia how he had the title Jeff Hearron, Jeff DeWillis, Matt Stark, Randy Knorr, Sandy Martinez, Josh Phelps, Kevin Cash and Guillermo Quiroz once held.
That group averaged 55 starts a man with the Jays while hitting .212.
The New York Mets could never find a third baseman until David Wright arrived.
Sports Illustrated had its cover jinx.
With four games remaining in Arencibia's rookie season, it is apparent now, and it was months ago the Jays catcher of the future, had arrived and is a legit hitter.
For the Jays, finding an everyday catcher to live up to his billing -- aside from Pat Borders -- was like searching the south Florida real-estate market for a home with a basement.
And now the next catcher of the future Travis d'Arnaud is coming off double-A Eastern League player-of-the-year honours and is a year away from entering the team picture.
That doesn't include the likes of Ed Sprague (eight starts), Carlos Delgado (zero starts in the majors, 416 in the minors) and Josh Phelps (four starts), who contributed elsewhere at third, first and DH respectively. Or Robinzon Diaz (one start) dealt for Jose Bautista.†
"I've realized you learn a lot from success and failure, now I know what experience is, I know now when to talk to a pitcher," said Arencibia after catching Brandon Morrow, Joel Carreno for eight scoreless innings Friday night and making a trip to the mound in the ninth to visit reliever Luis Perez, who opened the ninth by walking Johnny Damon on a 3-2 pitch and started Ben Zobrist off with a ball.†
"I told him the score is 5-0, they were taking a strike, so throw strikes, the last thing he needed was to be passive."
He also had two hits and from his knees threw out B.J. Upton attempting to steal second.
Arencibia has 25 homers and 92 RBIs in 135 games heading into Saturday's game. At times his defence has been called into question.
"He's a lot better at blocking balls in the dirt from spring training," said bench coach Don Wakamatsu. "He's growing. I saw a chart of Baseball Prospectus and he ranked in the upper grouping of blocking balls."
Arencibia says his relationships with the pitchers has grown.†
"I caught Ricky (Romero) in the minors, I can probably read him better than most, I know what makes him tick," Arencibia said. "Sometimes I go out when he gets too amped out, I tell him he needs to back off, slow the game down."
Arencibia had a debut to remember against the same Tampa Bay Rays in August 2010, by going 4-for-5 with two homers and three RBIs, but started only six games after that. He didn't arrive as a major leaguer until this season. And what a major-league moment it was.
"Opening night at home against the Minnesota Twins," said Arencibia, who went 3-for-5 with a triple, two homers and five RBIs. "I've always known I was capable of playing."
The search is over.
Seattle's Alex Liddi, signed by Wayne Norton of Port Moody, B.C., joined Reno Bertoia as the only Italian-born major-leaguers to hit a homer when he connected on Monday. Bertoia grew up in Windsor ... Todd Helton of the Rockies leads all active players with 1,304 hits at one ballpark, Coors Field -- since 1919, according to SABR historian Trent McCotter. Carl Yastrzemski holds the record for most hits in one venue with 1,822 at Fenway Park in Boston while Stan Musial is second with 1,815 at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis ... WHOOOO! Dustin Pedroia received a visit from one of his long-time wrasslin' idols, 16-time world champion Ric Flair (a 17th title is under dispute); Josh Reddick and Pedroia purchased one of Flair's feather wrestling robes for $400.
NEAR PERFECT RATING
The 2014 June draft is 46 months away.
Plenty of time for things to change.
Yet, if the Perfect Game scouting service is accurate, the Toronto Mets will have a first rounder in 2014.
Gareth Morgan, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound Toronto outfielder is ranked third overall on the top 50 Perfect Game high school prospects for 2014.†Shortstop Drew Ward from Leedey, Okla., is ranked the No. 1 prospect, infielder Bryson Brigman from San Jose, Calif., is second and Morgan is third in North America.
After impressing at the Under Armour showcase at Wrigley Field and having a successful summer with the Mets, Morgan is headed to Boca Raton and Miami, Nov. 9-16 with the Canadian Junior National Team as it preps for the world junior championship in Cartagena, Colombia Nov. 17-27. †