BREAKING NEWS; Young Yankees catcher continues to improve in….

Austin Wells continues to impress Yankees with improved defense behind plate


Austin Wells was better behind the plate than Aaron Boone expected during his September call-up last season.

But now the Yankees’ rookie catcher, long known more for his bat than his defense during his rise through the minors, has gone beyond just that initial, hopeful impression in Boone’s mind.

“I think he’s a really good catcher,” Boone said, sounding emphatic with a slight hint of surprise in his voice. “I’ve been so impressed with how good of a catcher I think he’s becoming.

“That’s always been [the question], right, can he catch? There’s no doubt in my mind he can and not only that, I think he’s good. His skillset now receiving, blocking, throwing  is all good. And the other stuff that’s an important part of the catching, I think he’s got. And I think he’s gonna hit.”


Austin Wells catches a ball at home plate during the second inning of a spring training baseball game against the Detroit Tigers.

If Wells can be more than just solid in all of the catching aspects the Yankees value — the ones Boone mentioned plus game calling and having a presence — he has a chance to earn an increased role this season.

“I think if my goal wasn’t to be a good catcher and to be one of the best catchers in the league, I’d be doing a disservice to myself,” Wells said Friday morning. “So that’s my goal and [I] continue to work to it every day.”

Boone said that whoever joins Jose Trevino as part of the catching tandem — Ben Rortvedt is out of minor league options — it will still likely be a split in playing time.

But if Wells is on the team, “he’s gonna play a lot,” Boone said, whether that means two or three out of every five games or some other configuration

The Yankees believe that the impact of Trevino (expected to make his spring debut Sunday) behind the plate and with the pitching staff is vital to their success.

But Boone’s effusive praise of Wells’ defensive improvements was notable, especially because of his offensive upside (and left-handed bat, which would further balance the lineup).

Boone and director of catching Tanner Swanson both said they believe that the 24-year-old Wells is an even better catcher now than he was in September. Wells can feel the difference, too.

“I definitely feel more comfortable and more in control,” he said. “Having a great pitching staff that really can hit spots, that also helps me a lot.

“I think it’s just the comfortability and the consistency of pitch by pitch. Just being able to feel confident in the pitch calling and then being confident that no matter where the ball’s thrown, that it’s going to be either a good reception or a block or keep it in front of me. Having that confidence build over the last few years and the offseason work we did, that’s really where it’s at.”

Swanson credited Wells for his offseason work at the Yankees’ player development complex.

Instead of using the winter to rest and recover, Wells used it to gain an edge, arriving in Tampa in November to get back to work.

“He’s gotten better every offseason … [but] this is the biggest jump he’s taken from year to year,” Swanson said.

At the end of last season, after Wells played his first 19 games as a big leaguer, the Yankees wanted him to focus on being more consistent with his positioning and getting more meticulous from a blocking standpoint.

“He’s gotten much more precise with not just getting his body in front of it, but actually being able to control the ball to a certain position to be able to deaden it and limit advancement,” Swanson said. “He got a lot better. I think people are recognizing that, too.”

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