For a pitcher to have a personal catcher is not uncommon. For a perennial Cy Young candidate to request a catcher with limited to no catching experience in the big leagues, we do find that rare. When Stephen Strasburg made his 2021 debut for the Washington Nationals in the third game of the season, he wanted Tres Barrera behind the plate.
Strasburg’s options were limited of course, with Yan Gomes and Alex Avila (a player he has never pitched to in a regular season game) both in COVID protocols. Aside from Barrera, the only other catcher on the active roster was Jonathan Lucroy, and he caught the first game of the double header. With the new double header rules in tact, the game was only seven innings, though catchers usually don’t catch both ends of a double-dip anymore.
What does this mean for Barrera when Gomes and Avila are cleared to play?
Washington Nationals picture Stephen Strasburg loves working with catcher Tres Barrera, who was returned to the taxi squad today.
Strasburg on Barrera:
"“He’s just a good dude,” Strasburg said, adding, “He works hard, and I think he appreciates the craft of calling the game and working with the pitcher. It gives you the extra confidence out there.”"
The two worked very well together against the Braves, allowing just one hit and two walks, while tallying eight strikeouts. As good as he is defensively, Barrera needs more seasoning with the bat. At Double-A Harrisburg, in 2019, he .249 with an OPS of .704. Even though he is 26 years old he still appears on the Nationals Top-30 Prospect list, coming in at number 19.
Barrera may never project to be a number one catcher in the league, though with experience could work his way into a solid backup role. Strasburg may like working with him, though with the veterans coming back, Tres has been returned to the taxi squad. The Nationals may have to find room for Lucroy on the roster as he has held his own in two games since being signed off the scrap heap prior to the season.
Strasburg’s comments were a nice compliment to a catcher trying to prove himself to the organization. This bodes well for Barrera getting back to the league in the future.