DUNEDIN, Fla. – Toronto Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro, facing an uncertain future with the arrival of Russell Martin, confirmed Monday that he wants out.
The 31-year-old from Venezuela said he had asked the American League team for a trade back in November when Martin was signed to an US$82-million, five-year contract.
Navarro says nothing has changed. He wants to go to a team where he can play every day.
He says he holds no grudges and will work hard the whole spring, hoping an opportunity comes his way. But he acknowledged he was frustrated and a little disappointed that nothing had happened in terms of a new home.
“I don’t know when did it go wrong, if anything did go wrong,” Navarro said of his time with Toronto. “I’m just going to be ready and do my job.”
Navarro, who hit 274 with 12 home runs and 59 runs batted in last season, faces being a designated hitter and backup catcher with the Jays.
While Navarro was professional and polite in speaking to the media, his desire to leave the club was hardly the opening spring training message the Jays wanted.
Still manager John Gibbons, who spoke to the media before Navarro, said he understood his catcher’s frustration.
“I can’t blame him for not being happy. He’s a competitor, he’s a big-league player, a good one,” Gibbons said, insisting there was a place for Navarro on the team.
Martin said he had a good relationship with Navarro, dating back to their time with the Dodgers.
“We’re going to both try and help the team as best we can,” Martin said. “I’m sure that if he could be in a gig where he could catch every day, I’m sure he would prefer that but that something that’s out of his control for now.
“The only thing he can control is his attitude and so far it’s been fantastic. And (it) hasn’t made me feel weird at all. He’s been a good teammate so far. It’s only Day 1 but the attitude is the right one and hopefully we can keep that going.”
While Toronto shivered up north, the Jays held their first spring workout on a cloudy but warm 21-degree Celsius day in the Sunshine state.
Martin drew a lot of attention during his opening bullpen session with Daniel Norris. Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey used personal catcher Josh Thole for his throwing time.
Gibbons said that was just for the first day of camp. Martin will be given plenty of time to learn how to handle Dickey.
While the pitchers and catchers worked in one corner of the Jays training complex, the hitters were at another doing batting practice.
The Jays’ first spring training game goes March 3.