March 10, 2013; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays catcher Josh Thole (30) singles during the third inning against the New York Yankees at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsThe Toronto Blue Jays have settled one of the few mysteries still pending in camp, settling on Henry Blanco to be the back-up catcher and serve as R.A. Dickey‘s personal receiver to start the 2013 season.
Andy Martino (Twitter) at the New York Daily News was the first to break the news.
The presence of Blanco in camp, and the fact that Thole still had Minor League options available, lead many to believe that Blanco would be the front office’s favorite for the role. Still, with both men having experience catching Dickey’s knuckleball in New York, the Blue Jays allowed an open competition to play itself out in camp. Blanco (28 PA), with a .320 average, 1 home run, and 3 RBI this spring easily beat out Thole’s (35 PA) meager contributions of .156, 1 home run, 2 RBI.
The Blue Jays acquired Thole from the Mets as part of the R.A. Dickey trade, mainly due to Thole’s extensive experience handling the Dickey over the past two seasons, and Toronto saw fit to ink Thole to a two-year contract worth $2.5 million this offseason.
Thole is coming off a season where he hit .234 with 1 home run, 21 RBI, and a .584 OPS in 104 games. However, he did register a 1.1 dWAR (baseball-reference) last season, a year in which Dickey won the Cy Young with Thole behind the plate.
At the end of the day, the assignment flexibility presented by Thole was more than enough reason to send him down to Triple-A Buffalo and allow him to get everyday at bats at the Minor League level.
Blanco, at 41-years-old, holds a .227 career average and has caught more than 60 games just twice in the last 8 seasons. Whether he holds up for the entire season will remain to be seen, but we will likely see Josh Thole in Toronto at some point in 2013.