Willson Contreras played first, second and third base for the Boise Hawks last season.
This season, hes settling in at home: Hes a catcher.
The 20-year-old from Venezuela started catching in the bullpen at the end of last season, and he thought he might be on to something.
So, for three months prior to coming to Boise, he worked every day with Hawks manager Mark Johnson, learning the craft of catching.
Being such a great athlete, physically it wasnt that much of an adjustment, said Johnson, a former major league catcher. We did a lot of work with his receiving (pitches).
The biggest learning curve for Contreras has been managing the game and pitchers.
Youve got to have a plan, and you need to understand that it changes throughout the inning and throughout the game, Johnson said. Anybody can go out there and throw fingers down.
Contreras didnt take long to figure out the position will take time to master.
Its been a little difficult for me, because Ive never played catcher before, he said. I need to focus more playing the position. Im the captain.
Thankfully, hes got an expert on his side.
The good thing is I can ask M.J. any question, Contreras said.
Contreras has caught five games so far this season, and Johnson has been pleased with his progress.
You know, every day hes getting better and better, Johnson said. With his physical tools he can be a front-line guy. His arm strength is there, and his feet are there, its just a matter of consistency.
Contreras was the only catcher on the Hawks Opening Day roster, but two catchers have joined the team during the teams first homestand. Chadd Krist and Lance Rymel were drafted earlier this month and joined the Chicago Cubs organization after finishing their college careers.
That means Johnson will have to perform a juggling act as he tries to find playing time for the three catchers.
Its gonna be tough, he said. Theyre going to all have to share time but with two new draft picks and a converted guy, they all need to catch.
Johnson said Contreras can learn from the two more experienced catchers, but Krist, a ninth-round pick out of Cal-Berkeley, isnt so sure about that.
Hes doing fine, Krist said of Contreras. Hes naturally very athletic, so hes picking it up very fast. I dont think he needs to learn too much from me.
Rymel, a 28th-round pick out of Oklahomas Rogers State, made his pro debut Friday night but it wasnt his Idaho debut.
The week before I got drafted I was playing for a national championship in Lewiston, Idaho, in the NAIA World Series, Rymel said. We took second place, and a week later I got drafted. Three days later, I got to Arizona and now Im here. Its been a crazy month.
After all that travel he was able to settle in someplace comfortable Friday.
I feel at home behind the plate, he said.
Soon, Contreras hopes to be able to say the same thing.
Chris Langrill: 377-6424