Glenn Sherlock moved from Mets bench coach to full-time catching instructor this winter, extending a partnership with Buck Showalter that began in the Yankees organization in the 1990s.
If there is a primary mission for Sherlock, it’s preparing 21-year-old rookie Francisco Alvarez for major league catching duties. Alvarez has begun spring training behind Omar Narvaez and Tomas Nido on the depth chart, and will have to show he’s ready as a receiver and defender before he can be considered for the starting job, bringing a potentially potent bat to the lineup.
Sherlock spoke this week with Post Sports+ about Alvarez’s baseball education and his own experience last season as Showalter’s top lieutenant.
At what point did you really begin focusing on Alvarez, and what it will take to prepare him for the major leagues?
Sherlock: He’s obviously been on our radar for a long time and we had him in spring training last year, so I got a chance to get a little bit of a head start on him. But just keeping track of him over the course of last season, just talking to the coaches. He was able to get to New York at the end of last year and we got to see him firsthand. He’s an exciting kid.
What does he have to work on the most?
Sherlock: He’s very young, and right now we’re working on everything. But probably the biggest things we’re working on are his receiving, blocking and throwing.
A lot of it seems like meshing with the pitching staff, so how do you know when a kid like that is ready behind the plate?
Sherlock: A big part of being a major league catcher is building a relationship with the pitching staff, and Francisco is such an outgoing kid. That’s one of his strengths. He likes to talk, he likes to engage the pitchers and he’s not afraid to ask questions, so I think that’s playing into one of his strengths. One of the things we’ve been doing is introducing him to our advanced scouting routine and the information that we have in New York and also with the things the catchers use to prepare for the game. So we’re getting a little bit of a head start.
How is the information different here than with Triple-A Syracuse?
Sherlock: It’s very similar, and we’re trying to keep it as close to being the same as we can. But we have more information in the major leagues because we have more information on the players.
So what does that entail for a kid like Alvarez? Does he spend more time reading scouting reports or watching video?
Sherlock: A lot of it is spending time talking to the pitchers. Like here, what we’re trying to do is encourage all of our catchers, not just Alvarez: [They] watch their bullpens and they go up to the pitchers and ask, ‘Where do you want me to set up? Where do you want my target? Where do you want me to be?’ It gives them a chance to communicate with the pitchers and also open the door to any adjustments. If they want to move further outside, then they could move further outside.
Where do you see pitch framing going when we get the automated strike zone? Is that something that will be very important?
Sherlock: It sounds like MLB is interested in going in that direction. I don’t know that they’re going to the full automated zone or using the challenge system. The challenge system to me sounds pretty interesting, and I know they’re using that in the minor leagues. … So I think pitch framing is still going to be important. I think it’s going to be important for our minor league catchers as well that are playing under the automated strike zone, so when they do get to the major leagues, they’re still staying sharp with their pitch framing.
What did you know about Omar Narvaez before he got here?
Sherlock: Just mainly watching him from the other dugout and playing in Milwaukee, he does a nice job behind the plate. You know watching him that he was good behind the plate, but we also did metrics on him and watched video on him this winter when we acquired him.
How much can a guy like that help Alvarez?
Sherlock: I think he’s a great influence on Francisco as well as all of our catchers. Omar is another guy that’s very outgoing and very happy to share his experience, and I think he wants to help [Alvarez].
What advice would you give to Eric Chavez moving into the bench coach role you occupied last season?
Sherlock: Chavy is going to do great. He’s a good baseball man, and he’s going to learn a lot from Buck. Buck is so in tune to what’s going on and thinks ahead so much that it will sometimes catch you by surprise because he’s thinking so far ahead.
Buck seems on top of so much. Does he rely upon the bench coach?
Sherlock: He runs a lot of things by you. He’ll ask some questions and want your opinion on things. He obviously makes his decision based on what he wants to do, but he certainly asks. … Before the game there’s a lot of time sitting in the office talking about lineups and advancing the [opponent] and talking about where we are and who’s going to play in that series.
Remembering Tim McCarver
On a national level, there were few better than Tim McCarver in a broadcast booth. But McCarver’s best work might have come in the 16 seasons he spent on WWOR-9 in New York as a voice of Mets baseball, alongside the likes of Ralph Kiner and Gary Thorne.
McCarver, who died Thursday at age 81, will be remembered for helping revolutionize the analyst’s role on a sports broadcast.
“Tony Kubek did a little bit of the groundwork and Al DeRogatis did that in football,” Mets play-by-play voice Gary Cohen told Sports+. “But nobody brought the kind of insight and observation and explanatory way of bringing the game home to viewers the way Timmy did. He really set the stage for an entire generation of former players that followed him and set the standard for what was to be expected.”
That expectation was the analyst would be prepared and explain the game’s nuances instead of serving as a cheerleader to the local audience.
McCarver’s candor was appreciated by most — just not always the Mets’ manager. Davey Johnson and Bobby Valentine were among the managers who bristled at McCarver’s straight talk.
“Tim told the truth, and he told the intricate truth,” Cohen said. “That didn’t always appeal to the managers and the front office, but it certainly appealed to the viewers.”
Got a brand new bag
Eventually, the larger bases MLB has instituted beginning this season will appear normal. But in the early part of spring training, they have become UFOs of sorts.
“It’s kind of thrown me off, how different the bags look,” Showalter said. “I didn’t think it would matter as much. For people that look at bases their whole life, to see them out there, it’s a different look.”
Showalter recently noticed the pitchers discussing the different feel while covering first base during drills.
“I think it might have a little more impact than I initially thought,” Showalter said. “It’s just something different. It would be like making the rubber bigger or the plate bigger.”
Why Max shook off WBC
As much as Max Scherzer wanted to pitch in the World Baseball Classic, he deferred to his former Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones’ advice in choosing to remove his name from consideration for the tournament. Jones served as a pitching coach for Team USA in 2017.
Scherzer, 38, was ready to pitch if Jones gave his blessing.
“From where everything is at [physically], he thought it would be best for me not to participate and that would be the best thing for my career,” Scherzer said. “Once Jeff Jones said no, then it’s a no.”