Don’t let Arizona State pitching coach Mike Cather’s title fool you, he knows what the most important position on the field is.
“From a development standpoint, the catcher,” Cather said. “He’s the one who runs the game. He’s the one that has to handle the pitcher.”
In practice, and in the dugout, Cather can feed pitchers advice and notes. He can talk to the about tempo and hitters. But that’s in a calm setting, with a pitcher who has some time before he delivers his next pitch.
This isn’t college football, where coaches and GAs can hold big signs up from the sidelines or talk into their quarterbacks helmet. For those in-game duties, Cather has to not on rely on Sun Devil catcher Lye Lin, he has to teach him, in a sense, how to coach.
The Sun Devils’ catcher and pitching coach work together frequently on game plan’s for each batter, each game. The duo constantly goes through scouting reports, searching for weaknesses in each hitter.
“We have an understanding of kind of how we want to approach somebody,” Cather said. “Lyle has shown that he’s on board with, ‘hey, man, we’re going to go first-pitch breaking ball to this guy because he’s a first-pitch fastball ambush guy.’”
As season ago, ASU head coach Tracy Smith pulled double-duty and took over as the team’s pitching coach in addition to his head coaching duties. The experiment didn’t work. Pitchers didn’t get the attention the needed and the team struggled. Lin also said that Smith was in charge of calling most of the pitches last year, but would let his catcher “call a few.”
This season, with Cather, that philosophy has flipped. He said he’ll only call “like 25-30 percent” of the pitches per game — mostly letting Lin control the game, but jumping in “critical situations.”
Here’s an example Catcher laid out for when he would call a pitch: “We want the ball on the left side of the infield, we’re going to go with off speed. We want a guy to actually hit the ball to the right side so we’re going to pitch him away, play him away.”
The former minor league pitching coach wants to get involved with as few pitches as possible, though. Not only does that show Lin’s improvement with the act, it keeps the game moving quicker. Lin can get his pitches to the pitcher much faster than Cather — thus, keeping a better tempo and flow for the Devils’ pitchers.
Calling pitches seems like one of those things that just needs to happen, who it comes from doesn’t seem to mean a whole lot. And while that’s partly true, Lin’s days of looking into the dugout may be over quickly and he will likely be on his own at the next level.
Cather, who was Miami Marlins’ Minor League Pitching Coordinator right before getting to Tempe, said he will probably only call one pitch per game in professional baseball — a place Lin could be as soon as next year.
“My goal is to be able to play at the next level and calling pitches is really important in this game,” Lin said. “So, obviously, I’m learning every day.”
Lin also said that during the Devils’ scrimmages in the fall he would call pitches for the entire game as Cather helped to develop him in that respect. The Devils’ pitching coach knows what it takes to play professionally, and has almost taken it upon himself to help Lin call pitches and make the jump to the next level.
“When he goes into pro ball, no one is calling a pitch for him,” Cather said. “So, I have some personal, I feel, accountability to help him with that as well.
“I think he’s done a really good job of processing the amount of information he has to process.”