Though he would bat only .244 in 62 games with Iowa, the 25-year-old Richie certainly had his moments during his first career stint at Triple-A. He pieced together a slew of two- and three-hit games, and 31 percent of his hits went for extra bases, including a career-high nine home runs in just 197 at-bats.
Richie got off to a promising start following a promotion from Double-A in May, which many viewed as a slight toward then-Tennessee catcher/outfielder Jake Fox, and he was hitting almost .290 entering the final month of the season.
Behind the plate, Richie threw out 29 percent (11 CS/38 ATT) of opposing runners, which would have ranked in the top five amongst catchers on the Pacific Coast League leaderboard had he qualified with enough starts.
Richie looks back on the year he had with a sense of modest success.
When we talked earlier in the year, you had just gotten called up to Triple-A and your numbers at Double-A this year and last weren't really that impressive. But you came to Iowa and seemed to do pretty well for yourself, especially early on. How do you explain some of the success you had there?
Tony Richie: I'd been relaxing a lot more at the plate, trying to get a good pitch to hit and then just put a good swing on it.
What all aside from that?
Tony Richie: I worked with [Iowa hitting coach] Von Joshua a lot on keeping my stance simple and not having a lot of movement before the pitch is on its way. It seems that's helped me to see the ball a lot better and a lot longer. I think that's one of the key attributes to the way I've hit this year.
When you got called up, Iowa had Soto here, plus Koyie Hill and Mike Mahoney. A lot of people had felt that Jake Fox should have been the one to get the call-up here instead of you. Was your fast start at this level partly attributed to wanting to show people that you were right for the move up?
Tony Richie: Oh yeah, especially after last year. I had a good year in Daytona the year before last, but then last year I didn't really play that well. So it was important for me to show the organization that I can still play a little bit and to keep getting an opportunity in the lineup.
The catching situation in Chicago right now with Jason Kendall and Henry Blanco isn't necessarily a long-term deal. Between Soto and some of the younger guys, it seems the race is wide open going into next year. Do you feel that you are a part of that race?
Tony Richie: It's always in the back of your head, but you can't think about it when you go out there and play every day. It's not really in your hands. You just have to go out and do the best you can, and if they want you up there and they want to give you that opportunity, you have to take it and run with it.
What have you worked on behind the plate this year?
Tony Richie: Reading hitters mainly; getting reads off the way they take swings in order to (call) the next pitch. It's been very important working with [pitching coach Mike] Harkey and some of the guys I've been around for a while up here, especially Soto. Just talking to him, it seems it has become a lot easier for me now. You can never learn enough behind the plate with these guys having been around for a while, especially Mahoney, who has caught for 13 years now. It's made a huge difference in my game.
Would you say that's the most important thing to you behind the plate: picking up on hitters?
Tony Richie: I would say it's keeping the pitchers on the even-keel and making sure they're confident in you and that you have confidence in them to throw the pitch that you're asking for. I think a lot of it has to do with our staff, and you have to give credit to them because they can do whatever you ask them to do at any time. I think that's why we won so much (79 games).
Catchers will always be catchers to a certain degree, but we've seen what's happened with Fox getting some reps at other positions. Have the Cubs said anything to you about expanding your arsenal of positions?
Tony Richie: I think I'm going to stay behind the plate. I don't really see myself playing the outfield too much. I'm not as fast as I once was, so I'm probably stuck back there.
We both mentioned Soto earlier. With the season that he had this year – MVP honors, probable Player of the Year in the organization and so forth – how much has that rubbed off on you, not only as a hitter but as a catcher?
Tony Richie: It's great. What he's doing is awesome and it's just amazing to watch him play right now. He's so locked in and hopefully they'll give him a shot up there and he'll take it and run with it. I wish him the best of luck.
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