Just five games and six days into the regular season, one of the newest Indians, Rajai Davis, slid into home plate while a member of the Detroit Tigers and hit the left heel of Gomes, which resulted in a sprained knee for the Tribe’s starting catcher and reigning Silver Slugger award winner. Just like that, the Indians were in need of depth at backstop.
At a position with such an increased injury risk due to the physical toll of kneeling and foul tips and plate collisions, the Indians again prepared themselves for the worst case scenario when they added a pair of free agent catchers to the club in November on minor league deals with spring training invitations.
Anthony Recker, 32 years old and a five-year MLB veteran, is one of those two security options for the club as the team counts down the days until the beginning of spring ball in Arizona.
Cleveland entered the offseason with just three catchers on the 40-man roster – Gomes, Perez, and Tony Wolters, a 23-year old six-year minor leaguer who has not shown strong offensive numbers since transitioning from middle infielder to catcher back in 2013.
The right-handed hitting Recker signed with the Indians shortly after the club brought back 31-year-old Adam Moore, who spent the majority of the season catching in Triple-A Columbus prior to a one-game appearance in mid-September for the Indians.
Recker had been with the Mets for the last three years before becoming a roster numbers casualty for New York with the presence of Travis d’Arnaud behind the plate and the emergence last season of Kevin Plawecki. Recker was outrighted off of the 40-man roster by the Mets in early November and became a free agent.
He had been the primary reserve catcher for the Mets over the last three seasons, but his struggles at the plate in 2015 opened the door for other candidates waiting in the wings in Triple-A Las Vegas to cash in on opportunities with the parent club. He was optioned out by the Mets in the middle of June, hitting just .143 through his first 19 games. He returned a week after the All-Star break with Johnny Monell, one of the call-ups from the Las Vegas roster, struggling in a backup capacity to Plawecki. The return of Recker was short, as he was again sent to Triple-A on July 30 when d’Arnaud returned from the disabled list, but he would rejoin the Mets two weeks later when the club sent out Plawecki to Nevada. He would remain with the club the rest of the season, but played sparingly with ten appearances in the final two months, starting just four games behind the plate plus one game at first base.
Recker had never hit for high average in the Majors, but the power he had flashed at times was notably absent last season.
In 32 games, he hit .125 with one double, two homers, and five RBI. In 27 games for Las Vegas in the Pacific Coast League, he hit .245 with three doubles, a triple, eight homers, and 21 RBI.
Recker entered the league through his selection in the 18th round of the 2005 draft by the Oakland Athletics. He worked his way up through their system, cracking the Major League roster in five games with the club in 2011 and another 13 the following season before he was traded to the Chicago Cubs.
He spent less than two months in the Cubs’ organization before he was selected off of waivers by the Mets.
Entering his eleventh season of professional ball, Recker will at best be an option for the Indians in the event of another early season injury. Otherwise, the Pennsylvania native may stay somewhat close to home in the Indians farm system as an emergency plan for the Tribe in Columbus.
Photo: Jim McIssac/Getty Images