Catcher Rene Rivera is shaking off his third string label. Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
In the vast wasteland that is the Padres’ batting order, catcher Rene Rivera is an unexpected oasis of sorts.
With a line of 6-for-17 (.352) over his last eight games, the one-time third-string catcher on the roster has raised his average 14 points to a modest .235. Couple that with his best asset, defense and staff management, and you have a rising asset on a struggling team.
Manager Bud Black certainly sees Rivera that way, penciling him in at catcher for 8 of the last 10 games. As Corey Brock of MLB.com points out, a so-called catcher’s ERA nearly a full run better than Yasmani Grandal’s, Black is justified in both his praise and confidence in his 30-year-old backstop.
For Rivera at least, he wouldn’t change a thing about the men tasked with instructing baseball’s least productive offense. He told Brock the time spent with hitting coaches Phil Plantier and Alonzo Powell is paying of. “The main thing we work on is be consistent with my swing,” Rivera told MLB.com, “That’s been our main goal since last year.”
At 34 games played this year, the 6-year big leaguer has passed his game totals in all but one of his big league seasons. He played 45 games and hit .144 with the Minnesota Twins in 2011. Conversely, this season Rivera could end up with nearly 90 games played if his time continues at this pace.
“I haven’t really been able to play every day in the big leagues. This is great,” Rivera told Brock. “ I finally get an opportunity to do it, I’m trying to take advantage.”
With a now struggling Yasmani Grandal as his only obstacle to the starting line-up, Rivera, who played in over 900 minor league games since 2001, may indeed just get that most coveted of all opportunities.