Tim Federowicz played like a man on a mission in his first game of the season Sunday because, well, he was.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I wanted to show that it’s not going to break my spirits.”
The spirit-crushing stuff hasn’t even hit yet. Federowicz merely knows it’s on the way. He is the Dodgers’ third catcher, a job with less permanence than a disaster-scene coordinator. As the odd man out of the triumverate, he’s trying his best to keep a brave face in the midst of a messy situation.
When the Dodgers acquired veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez on Saturday from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for pitcher Aaron Harang, Federowicz sounded understanding if not exactly thrilled after making his first 25-man roster a week ago, then spending his time away from the field moving into an apartment in the area.
“I know I feel ready,” Federowicz said. “I know (the Dodgers) kind of feel the same but at this point in time it’s better to go with Ramon and A.J. (Ellis).”
Federowicz walked once in his first game of the season, finishing with a deceiving 0-for-3 line against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Two of the outs were line drives hit directly at Pirates fielders and the third required a brilliant diving stop and throw from shortstop John MacDonald.
Hernandez made his first Dodgers appearance as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning, striking out looking against Jason Grilli.
The Dodgers won’t keep three catchers for long. “Right now we will,” manager Don Mattingly said, “but (not) once we get our pitchers back, going five guys in the rotation.”
The problem for Federowicz is that neither he nor Hernandez play another position.
“If it was a catcher who could also play some third base or different type scenario where he could play some other positions, then it’s easier to think about that,” Mattingly said, “but when you’ve got guys who strictly catch, it changes that.”
Federowicz hit .294 with 11 home runs and 76 RBIs in his first full Triple-A season last year. That was enough to earn a promotion to the relatively low-pressure job of a backup major-league catcher. He held the edge on the job from the end of last season to the end of spring training — but not now, which left him searching for a silver lining Sunday.
With Triple-A Albuquerque, Federowicz said, he’ll refine his approach at the plate and have the opportunity to work with a quality pitching staff. The Isotopes are 4-0 with a much-improved 3.75 earned-run average in the young season.
“I’m just going to go with it, see what happens the next couple days,” he said. “It’s not going to ruin my spirits.”