Despite going 0-for-4 in his first start for the Philadelphia Phillies, catcher Wil Nieves passed his first test as a starter.
With starting catcher Carlos Ruiz getting a rest, Nieves called a 2-0 shutout for Cliff Lee at the Chicago Cubs. That’s impressive because Ruiz had been Lee’s personal catcher for much of a successful career with the Phillies, and also because Ruiz is widely considered one of the game’s best handlers of pitchers.
Consider this, though — the only non-quality start for the Phillies came in the first game of the season when Lee blew a 6-0 lead only to get the win in a 14-10 slugfest at the Texas Rangers. The catcher that day was Ruiz.
If Nieves and Lee continue this kind of cosmic connection, Ruiz can get the every-fourth-day rest a 35-year-old catcher usually needs. Plus, the Phils have got to like Nieves’ hitting ability. In a part-time capacity the four seasons, Nieves has been right around the .300 mark. Last year, he hit .297 in 71 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The closest thing to a hit Nieves got on Saturday was a sharp grounder to Cubs third baseman Mike Olt, who tapped the bag at third for a force and then threw out Nieves for a double play to end the inning. However, replays suggested Olt didn’t touch the bag at third.
By the time news of those replays reached Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg, the Phils were already on the field warming up for the next inning, so Sandberg decided to drop any potential appeal. After the game, Lee said he would have gladly come off the field if it meant the Phillies would continue to hit so the Phillies could have filed away a teaching moment from a failed Nieves’ at-bat.
Calling a shutout behind the plate and adding a teaching moment for the new replay rule is not a bad way to begin a Phillies’ career for Nieves, and the team has to hope it’s an omen of things to come.