SAN FRANCISCO — Gabe Kapler spent one of his final major-league seasons in Milwaukee, playing alongside Jason Kendall. Kapler marveled that summer as Kendall, who was then 34 years old, crouched behind home plate to catch 149 of the Brewers' 162 games. He was durable.
The Phillies manager recently thought of his former teammate when the Phillies began kicking around ways to manage Jorge Alfaro, who caught 21 of the team's 26 games in May before finally sitting on Friday. Could Alfaro, a big and strong catcher, be as durable as Kendall?
"It's a question that we've been talking about quite a bit," Kapler said. "Kendall was not built like Alfaro. He played 130 to 145 games a season for a really long stretch. It was really impressive. There are guys who play almost every day behind the plate. It's just very difficult to predict who those guys can be and who they will be and who earns the right to play every day. We just have this really small look so far."
Kapler was challenged to sit Alfaro as the catcher batted .307 in May with a .790 OPS. He has been lauded for his work behind the plate and the way he calls a game for the pitching staff. He has the strongest arm in the major leagues and throws out base stealers at will. There are plenty of reasons to keep Alfaro in the lineup. And once he started hitting, it was almost impossible for Kapler to not write his name in the lineup.
"Alfaro, to me, looks physical, durable, and capable of playing fairly regularly," Kapler said. "We look at two things: When is the right day to get Alfaro a rest? And No. 2, when is the right day to get [Andrew Knapp] a start and keep him fresh? The combination of those two things saw today as the better day for Knappy and a day to push Alfaro yesterday. It worked out well."