JUPITER, Fla. -- Catching is no longer a novelty for Nick Stavinoha. It's closer to a necessity.
Stavinoha was removed from the Cardinals' 40-man roster over the winter, significantly lengthening his odds of making the Opening Day roster. It also doesn't help Stavinoha that five outfield spots appear to be pretty close to set. So anything that can help him get back to the big leagues helps. Establishing himself as a viable option behind the plate might be one such thing.
He did some catching in college, and in recent years, he's come to Spring Training early to help catch the crush of pitchers who need to throw at the beginning of camp. But before this year, he was always moved back to work with the outfielders before games started.
This time around, he's still catching on the eve of Grapefruit League play. Stavinoha caught Ryan Franklin and P.J. Walters in their batting practice sessions on Sunday, and manager Tony La Russa said that he may spend some time as the backstop in games this spring.
That's fine with Stavinoha.
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"It's one day at a time," he said. "I don't know what the long-term plan is there, but I come in and do whatever the schedule says. It's gone a little bit better for me this year as far as the way my body has responded. So I think that I'm just going to keep going with it. It's a good opportunity for me to learn a new position."
Stavinoha has lost weight since last year, allowing him to move better behind the plate. He also said he's fully recovered from a right shoulder injury that limited his throwing at midseason last year. Additionally, he's getting enough experience to pick up some of the art of catching.
"I think it's safe to say that he's made some significant strides in doing that more than just in an emergency," La Russa said.