Hammock wants to settle in at catcher - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Hammock wants to settle in at catcher

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Posted: Monday, March 3, 2008 10:58 pm | Updated: 9:25 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

TUCSON - For several years, Robby Hammock has been labeled as a flexible multi-tasker - a handy component able to provide a quick fix almost anywhere.As Hammock enters his 10th spring with the Diamondbacks, he wants that to change.

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He would prefer to be defined by the position that got him to the major leagues: catcher.

"The thing with versatility sometimes is, you become a jack of all trades and a master of none," Hammock said.

"My strongest position is catcher, and that's what I want to do. I still want to make that evident that that is my strongest position, all aspects of it."

Hammock has started the past two days at catcher and figures to get more time there while Miguel Montero recovers from a fractured right index finger.

Manager Bob Melvin is a believer in Hammock's effectiveness at his primary spot.

"I think there was a time where we weren't sure if he was going to (catch) on a-day-to-day basis, but I think he's past that, physically," said Melvin, referring to knee and shoulder injuries that cost Hammock half the 2004 season and all of 2005.

"Sometimes his flexibility works against him, where he is not that guy you look at to be a backup catcher. But we see him, especially defensively, as a guy who has a great understanding of calling games.

"He is as creative a guy as we have here."

Hammock has spent parts of the last four seasons with the D-Backs, last year making the team out of spring training for the first time in his career as a third catcher/handyman.

He hit .244 in 45 at-bats with the D-Backs before returning to Triple-A Tucson in mid-June, where he excelled, hitting a career-high .325 with 17 doubles and 35 RBIs in 246 at-bats with the Sidewinders.

If Montero is unable to start the regular season, Hammock is the logical candidate to back up Chris Snyder.

The uncertainty is a position Hammock has found himself in since his Feb. 2004 surgery, six months after his first trip to the major leagues.

He made it back to the majors in April and caught Randy Johnson's perfect game a month later.

"It would be nice to come into camp and have a job to lose, but I can play this game," Hammock said.

"I know I can play at the big-league level, given the opportunity and having the patience. My main goal is to work hard in drills, hitting, always learning every day. And when I go home at the end of the day, feel good about myself. That's all I'm worried about right now."

A former catcher, Melvin recognizes the subtleties of handling a staff and calling a game that Hammock brings behind the plate.

That can include probing a hitter's weaknesses or just generally messing with his mind.

"He doesn't go by the book," Melvin said.

"He takes in all the variables, the strengths and weaknesses of a hitter and the strengths and weaknesses of his pitchers. If his pitcher's third pitch is a change-up, (Hammock) may work that pitch in early in a game in a situation where you can't get hurt by it.

"Therefore, there's another pitch a hitter has to worry about, even though he might not see it often."

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