During the offseason, the Dodgers didn't sign any veteran backup catchers to major league contracts. They told Tim Federowicz, 25, that the backup position was his to win, and he did. Federowicz beat out a quartet of veterans signed as non-roster invitees to spring training and will be the Dodgers' backup catcher.
"It's good to see that it's kind of worked out that way," Federowicz said on Wednesday. "It was good to see faith in me I guess. I know I can do it, but it's just good to know they think so too."
Federowicz was thought of as a strong defensive catcher when the Dodgers acquired him on July 31, 2011 from the Red Sox in a three-way trade for outfielder Trayvon Robinson. Federowicz, nicknamed FedEx in the clubhouse, has delivered on that promise.
"To me it's a position of catching, throwing, and calling games. We require that, and that's really what we need," said general manager Ned Colletti. "He's been really good."
After having his best season offensively in 2012, hitting .294/.371/.461 with 34 doubles and 11 home runs in 115 games in Triple-A Albuquerque, Federowicz said his biggest strides came behind the plate rather than at it.
"(I've grown) defensively as a catcher, learning how to go about my business every day, worrying more about the pitcher than myself, learning to call the game," Federowicz said. "I'm excited about this year to start going through the scouting reports more in-depth, and I'll be in there executing those scouting reports."
Lorenzo Bundy managed Federowicz in Albuquerque the last two seasons and has seen the growth.
"He came to us as a defensive guy. That's what his strength was with the Red Sox, and that's what they talked about as far as being high on their list as a catch-and-throw guy. He hasn't given us any reason to believe he's not going to do that," Bundy said. "He does an exceptional job of blocking balls, he has a plus arm.
"He's learned to call a game now. He's gotten better at calling the game, following a game plan and a scouting report, which especially at the major league level you'll have to be able to do. When he first came over here two years ago, it was tough throwing him into the fire with not knowing pitchers, then having to catch pitchers in Albuquerque."
Federowicz has been called up to the big leagues in each of the last two Septembers, but has started just five games behind the plate and had 20 plate appearances combined. He spent most of his time watching, and learning.
"I've learned a lot from watching A.J. (Ellis), just the couple times I've been up. Josh Bard was good for me in terms of learning guys' tendencies. He was my mentor last year from a player standpoint," Federowicz said. "But just watching Ellis once I got up, he takes that stuff so seriously. That's what I want to do."
Now, Federowicz will get a chance to do just that.