2009 Seattle Mariners Preview: Catcher

White Sox Mariners BaseballWe break down your 2009 Seattle Mariners, position-by-position, with the start of the MLB regular season fast approaching. We’ve already previewed the infield and the outfield, our third installment takes us behind the plate.

Projected starter:

Kenji Johjima.


Jamie Burke, Rob Johnson.

Fighting for a spot:

Burke, Johnson.

40-man roster players in the minors:

Jeff Clement.


We could have lumped catchers in with the infield, but with so many questions still surrounding the M’s backstops, we felt the position warranted its own breakdown.

The only thing we know for sure right now is that former first-round draft pick Jeff Clement will start the season in Triple-A.  Besides that, we’re completely in the dark.

The starting job is almost certain to go to incumbent Kenji Johjima.  Despite a miserable 2008 in which Johjima actually relinquished his starting role by season’s end, his three-year contract says he’ll get first crack at being THE guy.  No matter if the pitchers don’t like throwing to him or not.

That leaves 26-year-old Rob Johnson to battle with non-roster invitee Jamie Burke for the backup job.

Johnson is product of the Mariners’ farm system, having been selected by the club in the fourth round of the 2004 June Amateur Draft.  He has worked his way up the ranks and has been the recipient of late-season callups in each of the past two years.

Burke has been the Mariners’ backup receiver since 2007.  The 37-year-old has established a sound rapport with the team’s pitchers and has been a reliable force off the bench.  The clock is ticking on Burke, however, and a rebuilding ballclub like this one may not have much need for his services.  Johnson receives the edge for that reason and that reason only.

In the minors, Jeff Clement is the only catcher currently on the 40-man roster, though his days behind the plate may be numbered.  With youngster Adam Moore quickly rising through the farm system, Clement may be in line for a position at first base, or soon be dealt to another ballclub in need of a receiver.  His poor spring kept him from making the ballclub, and if he continues to stagnate in Tacoma, he will struggle to ever live up to his high draft selection.

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