Redmond, Marlins to rely heavily on Mathis
Backup catcher eager to serve as mentor to young starter Brantly
MIAMI -- If anyone on the Marlins' roster can relate to new manager Mike Redmond, it's Jeff Mathis.
The two share the distinction of being backup catchers respected for their leadership and professionalism. They understand the importance of defense and handling the pitching staff.
As players, the two also competed against each other when Mathis was with the Angels and Redmond was playing for the Twins. When the Marlins begin Spring Training workouts on Tuesday in Jupiter, Fla., Mathis will be playing for Redmond.
"Mike was just a solid catcher," said Mathis, acquired by Miami from Toronto as part of November's big trade. "He's a guy who knew the game and knew how to handle pitchers. It's going to be kind of cool, me being in the same role that he played."
Redmond and the Marlins will be leaning heavily on Mathis' experience and insights as a young squad looks to blend together.
One of Mathis' primary objectives will be working closely with Miami's starting catcher, Rob Brantly. The 23-year-old Brantly has tremendous upside, but he has just 31 games and 100 at-bats of big league experience. Offensively, Brantly has a solid approach. But behind the plate, he needs more work.
"Any message I can relate to Brantly and help him out in any way, I think will help both of us out and help the team out," Mathis said.
The players are just now starting to come together. A number of them have already been working out at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter.
And this week, the team is branching out into the community as a lead-in to the start of Spring Training. Like many players, Mathis is taking part in the Marlins Ayudan Week 2013. Since Monday, a number of players, along with mascot Billy the Marlin, have made various stops to locations throughout South Florida.
The event will lead into Saturday's MetroPCS Miami Marlins Winter Warm Up at Marlins Park. The Winter Warm Up is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET. It's an opportunity to purchase season tickets, as well as take part in autograph sessions with players.
Mathis, who is from Marianna, Fla., is embracing the opportunity to play in his home state.
"Obviously, with the trade, I'm back closer to home," said Mathis, who grew up west of Tallahassee. "I was always able to watch a bunch of Marlins games."
In recent days, he has gotten acquainted with South Florida, visiting students at various schools in Broward County as part of Ayudan Week.
Mathis, who turns 30 on March 31, will be one of the more seasoned veterans in Marlins' camp. He broke in with the Angels in 2005, and played for manager Mike Scioscia, a former catcher, through 2011. A year ago, Mathis was with the Blue Jays.
"I was lucky enough to come up under Mike Scioscia," Mathis said.
Scioscia preached attention to detail and the importance of defense from the catcher position.
"That was first and foremost on his mind," Mathis said. "I was lucky to get put in that situation."
Communication with the pitching staff also is paramount.
"Obviously, the pitchers make the game go round," Mathis said. "You handle your pitchers and get them on the right page, and you get yourselves on the right page. It just makes for a smoother game, and obviously, most of the time, it gives your team a chance to win the ballgame."
The Marlins will be one of the youngest and least experienced teams in the league. For that reason, Spring Training will be important to get the team working as one.
"You've got a bunch of guys and younger kids who are kind of hungry and are trying to make a name for themselves and wanting to play," Mathis said. "Hopefully we can get everybody on the same page and playing together. I think with a young group, that's really big out of the gate. That's the kind of stuff that I look forward to."