Padres break camp with Norris and Bethancourt behind the plate

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Mar 29, 2016; Peoria, AZ, USA; San Diego Padres catcher Derek Norris (3) tosses the ball to starting pitcher Colin Rea (not pictured) during the fourth inning on a wild pitch at Peoria Sports Complex. Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley (not pictured) would score from third on the play. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 29, 2016; Peoria, AZ, USA; San Diego Padres catcher Derek Norris (3) tosses the ball to starting pitcher Colin Rea (not pictured) during the fourth inning on a wild pitch at Peoria Sports Complex. Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley (not pictured) would score from third on the play. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /
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Logging innings behind the plate, wearing nearly ten pounds of gear, can wear on a player. Derek Norris ranked seventh in the majors in 2015 in innings logged behind the plate, taking foul tips and sliders in the dirt more than most catchers in the league. In 2016 the Padres plan to open the season with Derek Norris and once heralded Christian Bethancourt

Feb 26, 2016; Peoria, AZ, USA; San Diego Padres catcher Christian Bethancourt poses for a portrait during photo day at Peoria Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 26, 2016; Peoria, AZ, USA; San Diego Padres catcher Christian Bethancourt poses for a portrait during photo day at Peoria Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

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manning the dish at Petco Park as Austin Hedges has been ticketed for El Paso to get regular playing time. Bethancourt was ranked 3rd by Bleacher Report heading into 2015 amongst Braves prospects, has a cannon for an arm and is rumored to be a power hitter in BP. He’ll need to be serviceable to take some load off Norris though.

In 2015, Austin Hedges debuted on May 4th, heralding the arrival of the Padres top prospect and giving fans a hope for two great catchers in Petco. What actually happened is that from May 4th to June 30th Hedges started a total of 11 games at catcher, meaning Norris bore the brunt of the wear and tear in this time. Derek Norris had started 2015 by hitting .313 with 9 doubles in April, a start that was outside of his limited statistical norms in Oakland, but to anyone who saw him, he was tearing the cover off the ball and a great season was well within his grasp.

From June 2nd to June 30th Norris started 23 of 26 games behind the plate. He had one day off, played first and pinch hit in the other three games. In the middle of this his manager, Bud Black, was fired and replaced with Pat Murphy, leading to turmoil in the clubhouse as well. Over this stretch Norris hit .168 with only three doubles, while somehow managing 7 home runs. He had 16 hits in the month of June. 16. Hedges had a rough time in this stretch as well as the sporadic playing time contributed to him accumulating a .105 batting average with only 4 hits in his first two months. Norris somewhat recovered from this brutal June and managed to hit .255 the rest of the season while leading the majors with 44 runners caught stealing.

Mar 29, 2016; Peoria, AZ, USA; San Diego Padres catcher Derek Norris (3) tosses the ball to starting pitcher Colin Rea (not pictured) during the fourth inning on a wild pitch at Peoria Sports Complex. Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley (not pictured) would score from third on the play. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 29, 2016; Peoria, AZ, USA; San Diego Padres catcher Derek Norris (3) tosses the ball to starting pitcher Colin Rea (not pictured) during the fourth inning on a wild pitch at Peoria Sports Complex. Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley (not pictured) would score from third on the play. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

In 2016 we hope to see more of the April 2015 vintage Norris as he hit .321 in spring training this year and appears poised to explode. If Bethancourt, who hit a sizzling .333 in 33 spring training at-bats, can provide 50-60 games behind the plate and an average in the .250 range we can hope to bring Norris back to the middle of the pack with regards to innings behind the plate. ZiPS actually predicts Bethancourt should be around .249 this year, so hopefully a relief for Norris is in house.  This would make an extension of the 2016 spring training and April 2015 Derek Norris reachable, and maybe we can salute Derek Norris this year when the All Star Game is played in his home.

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