Clevenger vs. Montell-may the best backup win

Clevenger vs. Montell-may the best backup win
January 27, 2014, 4:15 pm

Baltimore Orioles catcher Steve Clevenger (45) against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.

(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

This won’t be the biggest story of spring training. Matt Wieters will catcher nearly all the games this season, but even he has to take a seat once in a while.

In Wieters’ time with the Orioles, he has had nine backups: Steve Clevenger, Luis Exposito, Jake Fox, Chad Moeller, Ronny Paulino, Chris Snyder, Craig Tatum, Taylor Teagarden and Gregg Zaun.

None have played a complete season with the Orioles. Tatum, who was Wieters’ principal backup in 2010 and 2011 came the closest, but had stints in the minors both years.

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Since Wieters arrived in 2009, Tatum caught the most games as his understudy, 72.

So, it’s clear this is not a glamorous job.

The backup would play perhaps once a week, maybe twice, and not complain about it.

Clevenger, a Baltimore native, who came to the team last July from the Chicago Cubs, has the advantage. He’s a 27-year-old left-handed hitter with 83 games of big league experience, four of them last season with the Orioles.

He has a .204 average with one home run. Clevenger has thrown out just seven of the 55 baserunners who have tried to steal on him. In the minors, Clevenger nabbed 27 percent.

Johnny Monell, who was acquired from San Francisco, has caught just three innings in the majors. Monell is also a 27-year-old left-handed hitter. In the minors he threw out 29 percent of baserunners trying to steal.

On paper, not much difference between Clevenger and Monell.

There’s David Freitas, who was the player to be named later in the Jim Johnson deal from Oakland. He’s never played in the majors.

Freitas is 24, and in his first taste of Triple-A, hit .268 in 29 games with Sacramento. He’s thrown out 29 percent of runners trying to steal on him.

The loser of the Clevenger-Monell faceoff will probably head to Norfolk and team with Freitas.