After tumultuous offseason, veteran Zaun secures starting job

By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com , 01/03/2007 10:00 AM ET

跟去年一樣,又到了翻譯MLB官網Around the Horn的時候了。
Zaun不用再擔心去年季外所發生的事了。多倫多球團已經確定Zaun是球隊的先發捕手,而球團也沒有任何要回到去年狀況企圖。

去年冬天,Zaun都還認為他會是開季時的當家捕手。然而到了二月,多倫多卻決定做出調整:他們簽下了Bengie Molina而把Zaun放到替補席上。

不過現在Zaun卻獲得了藍鳥隊提供一紙二年,725萬美金的合約,同時還擁有2009年(375萬)的選擇權。此外球團也買斷了Molina的合約。後者隨後和巨人隊簽約。

“我一直希望能待在這裡”,Zaun在去年11月他的簽約記者會上說”我無法用言語來形容這裏對我的感覺,就像是我的家一樣”

在Molina簽約後,Zaun對球隊的想法原本可能會輕易地轉變。畢竟他是前兩年的先發球員,在2004-05球季一共出賽了240場。在多倫多他並不習慣備胎的角色,即便他生涯大部份時間都是替補。

在Zaun於2004年來到藍鳥隊之前,他唯一單季出賽超過100場的球季是1998年,當時他還是馬林魚的一份子。從那之後到2003年他沒有任何一季出賽超過83場,直到他來到多倫多並且成為這幾年的先發後狀況才有所改變。

“這裡是我職業生涯的轉折點”,他說”有很長的一段時間我就是不斷的去努力讓自己能待在大聯盟;而我再這裡得到了一個機會同時我也發現自己的特點。我一直認為我知道,但是直到來到藍鳥隊後我才對此真正清楚。”

Zaun在2005年作為先發球員時立下多項生涯新高的記錄,但是他在去年又再次更新了某些數據。在99場的出賽中總共有290個打席,這些都是2003年以來的低點,但是他卻繳出生涯新高的12支全壘打和0.462的長打率。

所以即將在四月滿36歲的Zaun現在重回藍鳥陣中成為捕手的第一選擇。他的薪資分別是2007年的350萬以及2008年的375萬。而2009年的選擇權要求就是在這兩年中出賽至少需達到270場。

雖說與Zaun簽約的過程並非一帆風順。一開始Zaun對球隊所提的合約裹足不前,以至於藍鳥隊將目光轉到自由球員Rod Barajas身上。然而據多倫多的GM J.P. Ricciardi所說,球隊幾乎已經和Barajas達成協議,可是他卻在最後一分鐘抽腿。與此同時球隊卻和Zaun解決了合約上的細節問題。

“Zaunie一直是我們的第一選擇”,Ricciardi在簽約後如此說到。”對我們來說,簽下一名非常了解這支球隊以及隊上的投手的選手是相當值得的。他在我們的打線中是一名相當難纏的打者。”

多倫多的補手在上一季一項非常明顯的弱點就是他牽制盜壘的能力。整個藍鳥隊在上一季被盜了全美聯最多的130個壘。Molina在2006年的狙殺率只有16%,而Zaun也只有17.9%。在整個MLB中只有教士隊比藍鳥隊被盜了更多的壘(150次)。

一般人很容易將被盜得這麼輕鬆的原因歸咎於捕手,但是教練John Gibbons認為上一季的投手群也有責任。

“毫無疑問,這是捕手的註冊標記”,Gibbons在九月這麼說到。”下一季的投手陣容還沒完全確定,但是這會是我們訓練的重點,加強牽制的能力。”

30歲的Jason Phillips將會是2007年的替補捕手。上一季他大部份的時間都待在3A的Syracuse,成績是出賽70場,0.273的打擊率、7支全壘打以及40分打點。

就像Zaun一樣,Phillips--同時也可以擔任一壘手Lyle Overbay的替補—也在上一季發現他的上場時間銳減。從2003年到2005年,從道奇到大都會,每一年他至少都出賽了119場。其中的兩季他單季都有至少10支全壘打和50分以上的打點。

到目前為止多倫多球團對於第三號捕手還沒有腹案。他們有可能將一名捕手放在3A以增加補手位置上的深度。此外一旦發生緊急情況,他們的農場新秀也可能成為選擇。

即將在四月滿24歲的Curtis Thigpen就是目前農場中最接近大聯盟的捕手。他上一季在2A和3A合計出賽超過100場,打擊率0.260,擊出6支全壘打,28支二壘打和45分打點。他在亞利桑那秋季聯盟出賽23場,打擊率0.307同時有9支二壘打。

以下附上原文:

Gregg Zaun doesn't have to worry about a repeat of last offseason. Toronto has made Zaun its No. 1 catcher, and the club has no intention of going back on its word.

Last winter, Zaun believed he was the Blue Jays' primary catcher as late as February, when Toronto then decided to switch gears shortly before pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training. The Jays signed free agent Bengie Molina, pushing Zaun into a backup role.

Now, though, Zaun has a two-year, $7.25 million deal in hand from Toronto, which added a vesting option worth $3.75 million for the 2009 season. The Jays also bought out the contract of Molina, who subsequently signed with San Francisco.

"This is always where I wanted to be," Zaun said at his press conference in late November. "I can't tell you how much I feel at home here."

Zaun's attitude could have easily turned against Toronto after the Molina signing. After all, Zaun was the Jays' No. 1 option behind the plate in 2004-05 -- appearing in 240 games over those two seasons -- before being forced into the platoon with Molina. Being a backup wasn't something Zaun had been used to with Toronto, even if it had been a familiar role throughout much of his career.

Before 2004, which was Zaun's first campaign with the Jays, his lone season with at least 100 games played was in 1998, when he was with the Marlins. From 1998-2003, Zaun never appeared in more than 83 games in any season. It wasn't until he signed with Toronto that he became a regular starter for longer than just one season.

"This is where my career turned around," he said. "I was kind of just spinning my wheels as a Major League player for a long time. I got an opportunity to get out there [with the Jays] and really find out what kind of player I could be. I always thought I had an idea, but it wasn't until I became a Blue Jay that I really knew."

Zaun set multiple career highs as a starter in 2005, but he actually bested some of those marks in limited action last season. In 290 at-bats over 99 games, which represented the fewest totals in either category for him since 2003, he set personal bests with 12 home runs and a .462 slugging percentage.

So now Zaun, who turns 36 in April, is back to being Toronto's first choice behind the plate. He's scheduled to make $3.5 million in 2007 and $3.75 million in '08, and his option vests for '09 if he catches 270 games over the next two seasons.

The process of signing him didn't come without a minor glitch, though. Zaun balked at Toronto's initial offer, and the Jays then turned their attention toward free agent Rod Barajas. According to Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi, the club reached an agreement with Barajas, who backed out of the deal at the last minute. That's when the Jays worked out the deal with Zaun.

"Zaunie was our first choice all along," Ricciardi said after signing him. "For us, it's worth having a guy who knows our staff and knows what we're all about. He's a tough out in our lineup."

One weakness that Toronto's catchers had last season was stopping the running game. The Blue Jays allowed an American League-high 130 stolen bases in 2006. Molina had a caught-stealing percentage of 16 percent, and Zaun's rate wasn't much higher, at 17.9 percent. Only San Diego (150) allowed more stolen bases last year.

Catchers have a tendency to receive most of the blame when runners advance so easily, but manager John Gibbons noted last year that the pitching staff was also partly at fault.

"It always registers on the catcher -- no question," Gibbons said in September. "Next year, you never know who's going to be on the [pitching] staff, but it's an area that we're going to have to look at -- shortening up [deliveries] a little bit all around."

Jason Phillips, 30, is set to assume the backup duties in 2007. Last season, Phillips spent the majority of his time at Triple-A, where he hit .273 with seven home runs and 40 RBIs in 70 games with Syracuse. In 25 games with Toronto, he hit .250 with six doubles.

Like Zaun, Phillips -- who can also back up Lyle Overbay at first base -- also saw his playing time reduced last season. From 2003-05, he played for the Dodgers and Mets, appearing in at least 119 games each year. He also clubbed 10-plus homers and 50-plus RBIs in two of those seasons.

Toronto doesn't have a clear-cut solution for a third-string catcher. The Jays might look to obtain another catcher to place at the Triple-A level in order to add some depth behind Zaun and Phillips. Otherwise, Toronto may have to turn to some of its prospects in an emergency situation.

One of those, Curtis Thigpen, who turns 24 in April, is probably the closest to being Major League-ready. Last season, Thigpen hit .260 with six homers, 28 doubles and 45 RBIs over 100 games between Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Syracuse. He hit .307 with nine doubles in 23 games in the Arizona Fall League.

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