Iannetta a 'quick study' in learning Halos' staff
New catcher eager to develop rapport with Angels' pitchers
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The education of catcher Chris Iannetta as to the different personalities and repertoires of the pitchers he'll be receiving for the Angels this year began as soon as he arrived in camp, and it continues each day in Arizona toward Opening Day.A veteran of parts of six seasons with the Rockies, Iannetta has been a "quick study," according to Angels manager Mike Scioscia, taking notes and asking all the right questions of a deep and talented Angels pitching corps. It's clear that school's in session, and Iannetta is hitting the books hard every day. "It's not an overly difficult task," Iannetta said. "You're dealing with veterans who are established and know what they're doing. We're just having conversations and getting to know what they like to do and memorizing that for when situations come up in the regular season." Besides, he says, much of the process is merely a matter of getting to know each other as people, just like anyone does in any walk of life.
It's not as though the education process will be over when the Angels break camp. Getting to know each other is something batterymates do for years."It's a fluid and dynamic situation that's going to keep progressing over time," Iannetta said. "I was in Colorado for five or six years and some of the guys I was with there the whole time, it just keeps getting better. "It's like any type of relationship you have in life. You start a friendship and you start basic, you start getting to know the other person. As time goes on you realize how to react and the more background you have with that person the better you feel about how to approach them in certain situations. It's the same type of thing when you're developing a relationship with a pitcher." About three weeks into that process with the Angels' staff, Iannetta is getting high marks from Scioscia and the pitchers whose outings will literally rest in his catcher's mitt come the regular season. He and Jered Weaver, for instance, endured a bit of a pop quiz on Monday, as Weaver faced eight batters in the first inning of their game against the Dodgers. The fact that Weaver came out of the game feeling good about his progress speaks volumes about how well the process is going. After the departure of Jeff Mathis and the arrival of Iannetta, this spring is a bit of an education for everyone involved. "It's going to be a little different, but the repetition of getting out there and getting a feel for each other, I don't think it'll take too much time," Weaver said. "He's pretty good at studying and asking the right questions." Likewise, Dan Haren has liked what he has seen out of Iannetta thus far. Said Haren: "We went over my game plan and he took notes, which is something he likes to do, and I'm sure after two or three times this spring we'll get into a rhythm. It's not his first rodeo, either." That's true: This education for Iannetta isn't prep school. It's more of a graduate degree in batterymate relations under the halo. And it's being pursued in one of baseball's higher institutions when it comes to wearing the supposed tools of ignorance, Scioscia being the dean as a former catcher himself. "He understands the pitcher-catcher relationship, and he understands what he needs to do not only on the mental side of pitching but the physical side of helping a pitcher execute a pitch," Scioscia said of Iannetta. "One thing that we have had here is we've always had catchers that are in tune with that part of the game and really apply that. Our pitchers really need that. "Chris hit the ground running from the first day here. One of our focuses early in camp is to get our pitchers comfortable with our catchers, and specifically Chris because of the time they're going to need to continue to grow as a battery. You need to work at it." The Angels hope Iannetta is an upgrade offensively, and he's coming off his second season with at least 100 games, collecting 14 homers and 55 RBIs in 345 at-bats. Catching back-to-back games for the first time this spring Monday, Iannetta doubled and scored on a 2-for-2 day that raised his early average to .250. But whatever Iannetta might do with the bat, it won't mean much if he doesn't bond with the pitchers and help them do their things. So it's that subject upon which Iannetta knows he must focus. "I think it's a great situation for me," Iannetta said. "Along with Mike, he's surrounded himself with other former catchers who know the position really well. Especially in Spring Training, being exposed to that many different opinions, that's a good thing. They all have little things to try and help you get better." Having left a Colorado baseball home he'd grown comfortable with over the years since the Rockies drafted him out of the University of North Carolina in 2004, the 28-year-old has a new home now, a new place to study what makes his teammates on the mound tick. "I just look at it as a great opportunity," Iannetta said. "I played in Colorado and had some good times there, played well at times, and they're going a different direction. This trade came about and it's an awesome situation. It's an opportunity to play, and to play on a great team in a great city. I couldn't ask for much more than that."
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.