Corey Bass seeing more time at catcher than expected

STATE COLLEGE – Williamsport manager Nelson Prada has had numerous conversations with Corey Bass about what his role with the Crosscutters will be.

It’s not going to be a glamorous one on a team which features three catchers, two of which are considered quality prospects. There’s going to be a lot of time spent by Bass in the bullpen, warming up pitchers. It’s a role he’s well aware he’s going to be in playing behind second-round pick Andrew Knapp and 20-year old Venezuelan Gabriel Lino.

It’s also a role he’s embraced. He appeared in four of the Cutters’ first 13 games, but only two were starts.

Bass was a 20th-round pick out of the University of North Florida last month. He was the Ospreys’ starting catcher, hitting .297 with six home runs and 31 RBIs in 56 games.

The likelihood was he isn’t going to get more than a handful of starts during the season for the Crosscutters. But an opportunity has arose for the 22-year old Florida native. Knapp hasn’t caught in more than a week because of soreness in his right elbow. Knapp went to Philadelphia to have the elbow examined Tuesday after the soreness lingered. Initially Prada had said the soreness would keep him from catching only three or four days.

In the meantime, though, it’s opened the door for Bass to get a pair of starts. His best appearance of the season came in his start Monday night against State College. He was on base twice, hit a sacrifice fly and threw out a baserunner trying to steal. The caught stealing was the first one of the season for Bass in nine tries.

In just 28 innings behind the plate, eight baserunners have swiped a bag successfully against Bass. He’s been plagued by a throw which tends to sail to the right field side of second base as he rushes his throw. But Monday night, he threw a laser right on the bag allowing Malquin Canelo to put the tag on speedy Spikes leadoff hitter Jimmy Bosco in the first inning.

“He played his best game in the whole season,” Prada said afterward. “He made the most of his chance.”

His chances will be limited if both Lino and Knapp are healthy. Knapp was hitting .297 with four RBIs after the Phillies gave him more than $1 million to sign last month. Lino, who was obtained along with pitcher Kyle Simon from the Orioles in the Jim Thome trade a year ago, was the Cutters’ best hitter at the start of the year and is hitting .304 with two home runs and 11 RBIs.

Bass is 2 for 10 with six strikeouts in his limited appearances, but as long as Knapp is battling his elbow issue, there’s going to be opportunities for Bass to get into the lineup, especially if he has nights like he did Monday.

“I don’t have any problems putting him in the lineup. He’s a guy that comes every day and works hard and you have to reward a player sometimes,” Prada said. “The good part is he’s ready to seize his opportunity to play. If he starts doing the job and starts doing good things behind the plate, he’s going to get the opportunity.”

HOT STREAK: There aren’t many lineups in the New York-Penn League where Logan Pierce would be hitting sixth or seventh, but Williamsport is one of them. Prada has said that’s a good sign about the quality of the Crosscutters’ offense.

Pierce went into Tuesday night’s game eighth in the NYPL in hitting at .341, but his past five games have been even better. He’s 8 for 18 (.444) in his last five games. He graduated, during these five games, from batting seventh in the Williamsport lineup to sixth.

It’s tough to crack the middle of a lineup which features the league’s most feared power hitter in Zach Green, second-round pick Dylan Cozens and the hot-hitting Gabriel Lino. But the 15th-round selection out of Troy has been the veteran baseball presence which provides a successful mix of youthful talent and polished advanced baseball players.

Monday night Pierce had three hits in his first three at-bats, two of which were doubles, his third and fourth extra-base hits of the year. His OPS is pushing .900, he’s struck out just five times in 12 games, and he’s getting on base nearly 40 percent of the time. He’s homered once this year, and it just happened to be an inside-the park home run.

But all of that is what Prada expects from a college draft choice, especially one who was a Louisville Slugger third-team All-American for the Trojans.

“He’s a sleeper we have in the bottom of the lineup,” Prada said. “he’s a guy, a college kid, that has an idea at the plate and makes good adjustments on breaking pitches. This league has a lot of college pitchers, so he should be able to handle it.”