The Texas Rangers seem to have found themselves a starting catcher this year, as Robinson Chirinos has given them a viable stop-gap behind the plate while they await the arrival of young super prospect Jorge Alfaro.
In a season full of disappointment, the Chirinos year has been a welcomed positive.
But right now, Chirinos is trying to get back on the field as he missed his fourth straight game on Thursday with neck stiffness, which required an anti-inflammatory injection on Thursday. Rangers team doctors have said the nagging injury is nothing serious and is more muscular than skeletal or structural.
Chirinos was hit in the mask by a foul ball on Sunday in Houston, which caused his neck to stiffen up later that night. Imagine taking a baseball to the face — albeit protected face — at 90 mph, and it might make your neck tense up, too.
Chirinos hopes to be back in the lineup soon to finish out a year which has seen him take over the injured Geovany Soto coming out of spring training and never really relinquish his job while allowing the Rangers to trade Soto to Oakland last month.
The 30-year-old Chirinos has played in 82 games this year, well above his previous career high of 20 games back in 2011 with the Tampa Bay Rays. He's batting .232 with 11 homers and 33 RBIs — certainly nothing to write home about — but he's been stellar behind the plate.
He has a .996 fielding percentage with two errors. He has just five passed balls and he's thrown out 38 percent of would-be base-stealers, which is well above the league average.
Chirinos should be the club's top catcher in 2015 with the hope being Alfaro will be ready to hit Arlington in 2016. Chirinos' offense isn't great, but not many catchers have that tool. His defense is well above average, and that's what you really want in a catcher.