Around the Horn: Catchers

Yanks in good hands with Posada

The following is the first in a series of weekly stories on examining each Major League club, position by position. Each week until Spring Training camps open, we'll preview a different position. Today: Catchers.

NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez's power-hitting displays might have garnered the majority of last summer's headlines, but Jorge Posada may well have been the Yankees' most indispensable player of 2007.

In the midst of a renaissance season -- and in a contract year, no less -- Posada shrugged off nagging injuries and a revolving-door rotation to help guide the Yankees to the American League Wild Card, batting a career-high .338, while leading his team both on and off the field.

A sharp and respected voice in the Yankees' clubhouse, the 36-year-old Posada was identified as one of the club's top priorities to retain this offseason. The switch-hitting catcher was rewarded with a new four-year, $52.4 million deal, which he agreed to just hours before Posada could have discussed financial terms with other clubs.

"I belong a Yankee," Posada said. "I'm really happy that I got the chance to sign a good contract, and really happy that I got the chance to stay with the Yankees. Going elsewhere, I was going to hear the offers, but the Yankees made it really tough.

"To have your whole career with one team nowadays is really rare. I've got a chance to play in the new stadium in 2009, and I think that's something I'm going to look forward to."

A key ingredient in the Yankees' success over the past decade-plus, Posada did little to change that standing during a 2007 season that proved historic.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Posada became the only player in Major League history to bat at least .330 with 40 doubles, 20 home runs and 90 RBIs in a season when he caught at least half of his team's games.

Posada logged a career-high 171 hits and 42 doubles, along with 20 home runs and 90 RBIs in 144 games for the Yankees in 2007, making 125 starts behind the plate.

All this in a season when the Yankees juggled 14 different starting pitchers for Posada to keep track of, including eight rookies.

Throw in the wear and tear of catching -- not everyone could have bounced back from Eric Hinske's bone-jarring hit at Fenway Park in September, for example -- and the makings of an impressive year were intact.

"You just go out there," Posada said in September. "You get ready and you get prepared, and you look forward to the next day. Some days, it's worse than others. It's all health, and adrenaline really kicks in sometimes. There's no second wind. When you play 162 games, there is no second wind."

Posada credits part of his improvement to catching instructor Tony Pena, who has helped tweak the veteran's game since joining the Yankees prior to the 2006 season.

A five-time National League All-Star himself, Pena has improved both Posada's mental game and his defense, though Posada's caught-stealing percentage dropped from 37.3 percent in 2006 to 23.9 percent in '07.

New York Yankees
Catchers: Yankees in good hands
Corner IF: A-Rod back for more
Middle IF: Jeter anchors DP combo
Outfielders: Familiar lineup remains
Starters: Youth meets experience
Bullpen: Uncertainties after Rivera
DH/Bench: Plenty of options

"He was a great defensive catcher. He's seen a lot of things happen," Posada said. "I think the biggest thing with him has been my throwing. There's so much he's seen and [so many] little things he's helped with.

"By the next day [after a game], he's already talking about things that happened and thinking about how to correct them. He doesn't let me wait. He tells me and makes sure I do it quickly."

Now signed through 2011, Posada believes that his late adjustment to catching -- he converted from second base while playing for Class A Greensboro in '92 -- may have helped keep his body lively late into his career.

Posada made just five appearances as the Yankees' designated hitter in 2007, though he understands that number is likely to rise in the near future. Posada said one of the reasons he rebuffed a strong financial push from the crosstown Mets was the lack of a DH in the NL.

"Having the DH in the American League was one of the things [to consider]," Posada said. "If anything goes wrong, I can also fall as a DH. Right now, I'm a catcher and I'm looking forward to catch for four more years."

The Yankees believe they have adequately provided a backup for Posada's services by retaining veteran Jose Molina, who finalized a two-year, $4 million deal with New York in December.

The 32-year-old Molina came to the Yankees in a July 21 trade from the Angels and solidified the backup catching position, batting .318 with one home run and nine RBIs in 29 games for the Yankees, including 16 starts at catcher.

A longtime Angel, Molina said he was surprised to learn what it was like to be a Yankee from the inside.

"When you're in the other dugout, you think about this team having a lot of superstars," Molina said in August. "They're not selfish, but [we thought] they probably were playing for themselves. That's the way, when I was on the other team, we were looking at it.

"But I got here and got inside. I just ate my words. It's the opposite of what you see from the outside. You have to be inside with these guys to see the way they treated me when I came in. It changed the way I think about anybody now."

Molina, who hit safely in 12 of his 16 games in New York, envisions even better things ahead.

"Right now, I feel like our team is pretty strong," Molina said. "We can win the World Series with Jorgie, Mariano [Rivera] and Alex. I think we have a very good chance."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.