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Pedro Severino off to a blazing spring training start

Pedro Severino is navigating  (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

“The balls I got hit with were balls I shook off from him,” Gonzalez said. “He had the right mind frame.”

Severino, who made his major league debut last September, is in his second major league camp at 22 years old. Signed by the Washington Nationals out of the Dominican Republic in 2010, Severino steadily climbed through the minors as an impressive defensive catcher, smooth, smart and steady behind the plate. Severino played in four games and got one at-bat in spring training last year. This year, after he finished last season at Class AA Harrisburg and was a September call-up, Severino has played in eight games and counting. He has seven hits in 13 at-bats, a .538 average, with two doubles and a .600 on-base percentage. He also runs well for a catcher, which he attritubes to the fact that he played the field when he was younger, and wasn’t always locked in to catching.

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“I mean, it’s working hard every single day. My approach got much better from last year,” Severino said. “This spring training been amazing for me because all the guys help me a lot, and that’s why I can go on.”

Gonzalez noted that Severino stuck to the game plan Tuesday, and had a good idea of when to work in the off-speed pitches he was trying to hone. Shortstop and fellow defensive standout Danny Espinosa pointed out Severino’s game-calling, that he had a good idea, and said he’s noticed that Severino blocks and deadens the ball well.

“He’s got a strong arm and has a good idea of what he wants to do calling the game behind home plate,” Espinosa said. “He’s pretty impressive for a young guy to go out there and manage the staff and have the confidence to tell them what to do.”

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Severino said the catchers met with all the pitchers before spring training, and talked over what they like to do, what pitches they like to throw when. Because of that, he feels confident enough to direct older, more experienced pitchers through game plans.

“He’s into the game. He calls a good game,” Nationals Manager Dusty Baker said. “He can block, he can throw, and he’s really improved as a hitter. The ball jumps off his bat. So all he has to do is live and play.”

Severino’s hitting was never his primary, most enticing tool, but it has improved.  Severino hit .246 in 91 games with Harrisburg last season with a .619 OPS.

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“I’m just staying in the middle,” Severino said. “Just trying to see the ball and hit the ball. Not trying to think too much at home plate. That’s why sometimes you feel lost, you know? So that’s what they tell me. Don’t think too much at home plate, and swing it.”

Barring injury, Wilson Ramos and Jose Lobaton look locked in as the Nationals’ big league catchers. Should one of them get hurt, Severino may be a good in-house candidate to replace him. Ramos is a free agent after this season, so if not this season, Severino may factor in the majors next year. Despite his impressive offensive spring training showing, he knows the key to that future is his defense.

“Catching is my first priority because I don’t want to forget about my defense,” Severino said. “That’s why I just be here right now.”