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Arizona baseball: Cesar Salazar forced to do all the catching for the Wildcats

Not a position that Arizona can afford to sustain injuries

Cesar Salazar looks to the Arizona dugout for the pitch call
Cesar Salazar looks to the Arizona dugout for the pitch call
Jason Bartel

Throughout the majority of the season, the Arizona Wildcats essentially split the catching duties between Cesar Salazar and Ryan Haug.

But now in the most crucial part of the season, the burden falls solely on Salazar's shoulders.

Haug was walking around with a crutch two weekends ago during the Oregon State series, but ditched the help this past weekend during the ASU series as he continues to recover from a fractured vertebrae.

The sophomore had been battling back issues during the fall and spring as well. But this is obviously a much more important time of the season to be dealing with injuries, especially at a position like catcher.

"(Salazar)'s not coming out," head coach Jay Johnson explained of the current catching situation. "He's ready to handle it. Nick Hundley, former Arizona guy, catches six days a week, so Cesar can catch three."

"I love doing it, so I just try to stay relaxed and not think," Salazar said of his mindset knowing that he's going to have to play every day. "It's been working for me, and I don't try to put too much pressure on myself."

Arizona will need Salazar to feel more relaxed, and to stay healthy. He has dealt with his own share of injuries, from his fingers to his head. As the Wildcats continue their quest for a postseason appearance and possibly hosting a regional, the team can't afford to be down to their third and fourth string catchers, who are both not exactly catchers by trade.

Those two would be Sawyer Gieseke and Casey Bowman, who have combined for 17 plate appearances this season.

Salazar's effectiveness at the plate had tailed off a bit after reaggravating a finger/hand injury several times, but a three walk game on Saturday may have changed the freshman's course.

"Big leap forward in his development as a hitter," Johnson said after that particular game. "We had a good conversation about one o'clock this afternoon about what our team needs him to do to be successful and maybe I should have had the conversation a few games ago."

Before that three walk game, Salazar had only walked nine times all year. His four walks against ASU were equal to half of his season total before that three-game set.

So what's changed?

"I try to breath before every pitch now," the freshman catcher explained. "That's helping me stay relaxed and see more pitches and be more selective and I think it's helped me a lot."

"(The coaches) advised me," Salazar continued. "They do a great job of guiding me and helping me grow and make me as good as I can be."

"I'm just feeling more relaxed. That's a win."

It's a big win, and a much-needed win if Arizona is going to make any noise as we head towards college baseball's postseason.