The role of the backup catcher isn’t the most glorious job to begin with and the innings are even more difficult to come by when you’re playing behind Yadier Molina. But as the St. Louis catcher has been out with back stiffness the last few games, the play of Eric Fryer has more than stood out.
“When I see Fryer, I see Yadi,” praised Carlos Martinez after Fryer caught his complete game, shutout Saturday. “I think that he calls an excellent game. He’s a really talented catcher. The only difference is that Fryer speaks English and when I communicate with Yadi it’s in Spanish. I appreciate that because Fryer still knows how to communicate and work with me.”
Sunday’s complete game was the first time Martinez and Fryer had worked together in a regular season game this year. A couple of years ago, it would have been legitimate to wonder if Martinez would be able to deliver that kind of performance without Molina behind the plate. Now with the pitcher’s own maturity and the ability of Fryer, there was no issue.
“The difference here is that I have more confidence in myself,” said Martinez. “And the same confidence that I put in Molina to call a great game, I have that in Fryer. I really think they’re comparable and nothing changes. It’s the same goal. It’s the same intention and that’s what I go out there focused on.”
“What Eric did was jump in and tried to keep things the same because Carlos has been throwing the ball extremely well,” said Mike Matheny. “Eric’s a student. I think he’s very conscientious about figuring out the psyche of these pitchers of what they need and what’s going to give them a chance to be comfortable and then sticking with a similar game plan of what he’s seen so it’s not completely foreign.”
Overall, it was the ninth start of the year for Fryer. The Cardinals 7-2 in those games.
“I try to be ready whenever my number’s called upon,” downplayed Fryer. “It’s normally strange hours, like late-flight or day games. Just putting in the homework whether Yadi’s in there or whoever, just talking to them. Talking to the pitchers, seeing what they see so that way when I’m out there, it’s not foreign to me. Just kind of step in and keep the train going.”
“He’s been around multiple teams, so he knows how to get along with everybody,” points out Lance Lynn. “In between starts, he’s always kind of picking your brain or when he’s not playing, he’s talking to the starters and seeing things they like. He’s always down in the bullpen catching guys so he knows what they have. He catches bullpens in between, so he knows everything about us even though he doesn’t get to play much. He does everything that he can. He pays attention to a lot and he’s a very intelligent person.”
In 22 appearances behind the plate last season for St. Louis, Fryer caught 81.1 innings and has already tallied 93 innings in 14 games this year.
“He’s able to think along with you as the game goes on, you don’t have to talk much,” added Lynn. “He’s able to kind of do it naturally and that’s good and it’s hard to do for some back up catchers.”