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Austin Wynns, likely odd-man out of catching competition: ‘I did everything that I can’



© Matt Kartozian | 2023 Mar 9

OAKLAND, Calif. — Nothing is official yet, but the tea leaves show to the Giants heading to Yankee Stadium with three catchers on the team charter: Joey Bart, Roberto Pérez and Blake Sabol.

That would leave Austin Wynns outside of the Giants’ initial plans.

“I did everything that I can,” Wynns, 31, told KNBR on Sunday. “Whatever happens, happens.”

Pérez, the 34-year-old veteran, made the club. (“Good for him,” Wynns said). Bart has demonstrated an improvement in approach and his throwing arm makes him more valuable under the new set of rules. And Sabol’s ability to play the outfield and Rule 5 restrictions make his place on the roster likely.

As it stands, Wynns won’t get rewarded for his terrific spring. In 14 Cactus League games, Wynns posted a 1.015 OPS. All three of his hits left the park for homers, and he walked as much as he struck out.

But each of the other catchers fighting for a spot also performed well. Plus, they each stayed healthy.

The Giants entered spring training with much of their roster already set. But the catching position, notably and publicly, was up for grabs.

San Francisco was to consider four candidates. Bart, the presumed successor to Buster Posey, struggled in his first full season last year to the point of a midyear demotion — tabbed a “reset.” Pérez, a two-time Gold Glover whose past two seasons have been littered with injuries. Sabol, a converted outfielder acquired in the Rule 5 Draft whose left-handed hitting appears real. And Wynns, probably the safest, surest, most consistent backstop of them all.

Wynns represents the predictable option. With Wynns, the Giants know they’re going to get professional at-bats, an up-beat presence and astute game-calling. Wynns has earned strong reviews from pitchers he’s worked with and eventually became Carlos Rodón’s preferred batterymate late last season.

The Giants signed Wynns last year as a stopgap solution when they sent Bart down to Triple-A. In 65 games with San Francisco, Wynns hit .259 and struck out 38 times compared to 10 walks. In Triple-A, Wynns posted a 1.004 Triple-A.

On Feb. 27, the catcher said that he turned down other opportunities to return to the Giants. He did so even after the club designated him for assignment in January.

There may be opportunities for Wynns eventually. Injuries and the tolls of a season can create unexpected pathways to playing time.

“It’s the nature of this beast,” Wynns said Sunday. “It’s a long season. Whatever happens, happens. I think anyone in my situation, you’ve just got to handle it like a pro. Handle is like a pro. Things will happen in this long season, you hope. Or, not even — just go about it, whatever happens, happens. Put your head down and just go.”

Wynns said he got positive feedback from teammates, pitchers and the coaching staff this spring. But the veteran’s 10th year as a pro will likely begin in the minors.

“I know that they like me and value me a lot,” Wynns said. “It’s really cool to hear that.”