- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 6, 2016

OXON HILL, Md. — One of the Washington Nationals’ central offseason questions revolved around what would happen at catcher. Wilson Ramos was out of the mix because of the torn ACL that ended his season at the end of September, when he was on the cusp of free agency. Backup catcher Jose Lobaton was heading for arbitration. Rookie Pedro Severino impressed the club after being called up late in the season and placed on the postseason roster because of Ramos’ injury.

The first step toward resolution at the position came when Washington re-signed Lobaton to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration. They acquired former all-star catcher Derek Norris a day later from the San Diego Padres in exchange for minor league right-hander Pedro Avila. Norris was drafted by the Nationals in 2007, before Mike Rizzo was the general manager. However, third base coach Bob Henley and hitting coach Rick Schu both worked with Norris when he was in the organization until 2011 (Rizzo became general manager in 2009).

Norris had an awful season at the plate last year in San Diego. He struck out 139 times in just 415 at-bats. He hit .186 with a .583 OPS. He will be replacing Ramos, who was a first-time all-star in large part because of his hitting.

Rizzo labeled Norris a “bounce back” candidate, which is predictable considering it would be difficult for him to have more trouble at the plate.

“The skill set is still there,” Rizzo said Monday. “We like his approach at the plate. He’s got a simple hitting approach that we’ve dealt with before. We’ve got a history with him. We know what makes him tick. We know what motivated him and helped him in the past.”

Severino, it appears, will have to continue to wait before becoming a regular in the major leagues. The 23 year old spent most of last season with Triple-A Syracuse. He appears close to ready, if not quite there.

“Severino is a bright young prospect that’s the catcher of the future here,” Rizzo said. “He’s got a great skill set. I love in his short stint here, the energy defensive prowess and the hitting approach that he showed. He’s got a great deal of ability that I think is going to play well in Washington. Norris is a former all-star that has bounceback potential. We know the makeup. We’ve loved the kid for a long time. We’re a lot deeper now at catcher than we were a couple days ago.”


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