Thole to catch Dickey as Blue Jays' backup

Thole to catch Dickey as Blue Jays' backup

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays have decided to go with Josh Thole as their backup catcher at the start of the season instead of Erik Kratz.

The choice is somewhat of a surprise, because Kratz spent almost the entire spring working with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey on a regular basis. Kratz also hit .400 (10-for-25) with a pair of home runs and five RBIs in 11 games.

Instead, the catcher who has caught Dickey for the past four seasons got the job.

"It was a tough call, because I thought they both did a nice job this spring," Gibbons said of the two catchers. "[Thole] has something with Dickey, though. He has caught him the last few years; there's a little something they have working. So we're going to run with it."

Thole will be Dickey's personal catcher while veteran Dioner Navarro is expected to start most of the other games. Thole spent two years as the starting catcher with the New York Mets before transitioning to a part-time role in Toronto last season.

Kratz appears to have the higher offensive upside. The 33-year-old hit nine home runs in each of the past two seasons with the Phillies despite receiving less than 200 at-bats. He's a career .220 hitter with a .281 on-base percentage over parts of four years in the big leagues.

Thole struggled in 2013 as he managed to hit just .175 with a .256 on-base percentage in 45 games. There's a chance he could receive more playing time this year, considering Navarro hasn't played more than 89 games since 2009 and might need some additional rest over the 162-game schedule.

In order to justify the club's decision, Thole will need an uptick in his production at the plate. He's been spending a lot of time with hitting coach Kevin Seitzer this spring and feels as though he has made some progress in his approach.

"There's a couple of timing drills that we do in the cage," Thole said. "Close up with some firmness to the throw instead of just the traditional flips or hitting dead-arm batting practice -- I think doing those kind of things will be beneficial for me.

"I feel like this spring I've been able to get back to myself, who I was as a hitter, what got me here."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.