Treanor, Rabelo injuries benefit duo
Hoover, Baker catching for Marlins while front-liners heal
VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Over the past few days, the competition to be the Marlins' starting catcher has been put on hold because of some minor ailments.
Mike Rabelo had his left leg clipped on a play at the plate against the Nationals in Viera, Fla., on Thursday. The switch-hitting former Tiger, who came over in the Dontrelle Willis-Miguel Cabrera trade, remains day to day.
And Wednesday, Matt Treanor experienced a cramp and mild pulled left calf muscle in a game against the Cardinals. Treanor is close to returning and could be back Monday.
The two are expected to split almost evenly the starting job.
As they recover, the Marlins are getting a closer look at some alternatives who are expected to open at Triple-A Albuquerque. Paul Hoover and John Baker, who have been waiting in the background, are now getting some starting chances. On Sunday against the Dodgers in Vero Beach, prospect Brett Hayes was behind the plate.
"You're always looking for an opportunity to play," Hoover said. "You don't want it to be because of injury. Unfortunately for [Rabelo and Treanor] and this team, they are both banged up right now. At the same time, it opens up some opportunities for other guys to get to play and show what they can do."
Hoover, 31, has some big league experience, seeing action in 15 total games. He broke in with Tampa Bay in 2001, and last season he played in three games for the Marlins, going 3-for-8. His biggest hit of the season came in the eighth inning of a Sept. 29 game against the Mets at Shea Stadium. New York's John Maine was tossing a no-hitter that Hoover broke up with a slow-rolling single down the third-base line.
Hoover is among the first players to arrive at camp each day. He frequently has done some hitting in the cages before a number of players arrive.
"I'm coming in hoping I'm in the lineup every day," he said. "If I'm not, I try to get ready to be in that lineup. You've got to be prepared and to stay sharp, and give yourself every opportunity for success."
Baker, 27, is a left-handed hitter from northern California who is in his first big league camp with the Marlins. He was acquired from the A's for first baseman Jason Stokes on March 30, 2007.
Offensively, he has posted solid numbers, batting .285 with eight homers and 41 RBIs in 89 games for Triple-A Albuquerque last year.
In Grapefruit League games, it's common for the reserves and eventual Minor Leaguers to see action late in games as the regulars are given a breather.
This is the time Baker and Hoover were mostly seeing action, at least before their recent starts.
"As a player, you just want to be in there," Baker said. "You don't care what inning it is. The other catchers in here are always excited to see who is going to play in the second half of the game. We want to show that we can play at this level.
"It's unfortunate that [Rabelo and Treanor] have these injuries, but what it does do is give those guys who are going to be in the big leagues time to rest and heal up, and at the same time, it gives us time to get ready for our season, whether it is here in the big leagues because of an injury or in the Minor Leagues to start the year."
For Baker, the important thing now is he is getting watched by the big league coaching staff.
"I didn't get to do that last year because I was with the A's in Spring Training," he said. "They had never seen me play before."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.