Skipworth Now Focuses More Attention On Defense





JUPITER, Fla.—Kyle Skipworth is not the guy the Marlins thought they were getting, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

The Marlins drafted Skipworth, an offensive-minded catcher at Patriot High in Riverside, Calif., with the sixth overall pick in 2008. They didn't expect that he might reach the majors on the merits of his defense.

"I want to be a catcher who can hit, not a hitter who can catch," said Skipworth, who adopted that philosophy with the help of former catching coordinator Tim Cossins, now the minor league field coordinator for the Cubs. "We did a ton of work. Our whole goal was: Get to the big leagues because you can catch, and once you get there, stay there because you can hit. It took me a little while to buy into that, but once I did it made the 0-for-4's not matter if I caught a shutout."

Skipworth has gone through his share of hitless nights. He owns a career batting line of .219/.282/.377 through 1,807 plate appearances, and he has been bypassed by J.T. Realmuto as the organization's top catching prospect.

"Kind of being beaten up in the batter's box helped me to be like, 'There's no poor-me anymore,' " Skipworth said. "(If) you punch out, you better get back there, call a good game, have your head on straight."

Skipworth tumbled further down the depth chart when the Marlins acquired Rob Brantly last season as part of the Anibal Sanchez trade with the Tigers.

Yet the Marlins still gave serious thought to promoting Skipworth last September. He might get his chance early this season, following news that veteran Jeff Mathis will miss at least a month with a broken collarbone.

"Kyle's done a great job for a big guy behind the plate," president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said of the 6-foot-4, 223-pound Skipworth.

"His pedigree coming in was that he was going to be an offensive player, and we see flashes of that. For him, it's just consistency and confidence (with his swing). It's still there, very much there at 23 years old."

The Marlins challenged Skipworth by promoting him from low Class A Greensboro in 2010 to Double-A Jacksonville the following season. He hit a nightmarish .207/.273/.331 in 396 at-bats.

FISH BITES

• Lefthander Grant Dayton, an 11th-round pick out of Auburn in 2010, had arthroscopic elbow surgery and could begin a throwing program in April and see game action in May.

• The Marlins released catcher Craig Tatum, whom they signed to a minor league deal in January, after he informed the club he was retiring.