Jaso gets credit for learning new stance

Jaso gets credit for learning new stance

CHICAGO -- Given Kelly Shoppach's status, John Jaso will now assume a higher profile.

The circumstances magnify what transpired during Spring Training when Maddon spoke bluntly to the young catcher about the way he caught.

"Here's a guy that can be pretty good," Maddon said, "so why not tell him what's going on? To his credit he took it the right way."

Initially Jaso got discouraged, but he quickly moved on.

"It obviously was discouraging because I did take pride in my catching," Jaso said. "To hear that right out of the gate, it is discouraging. But I'm kind of happy that I put that aside and opened my mind to what he had to say and what [bullpen and catching coach] Bobby Ramos had to say."

Maddon wanted Jaso to understand that there was a difference between function and comfort when catching.

"Sometimes you have to sacrifice comfort for function," Maddon said. "He was in a comfortable stance, but it wasn't functional. That's the best way to describe it for you. He may have been comfortable and felt good, but it wasn't going to work that way. So we needed to get something that was functional. You practice your functional stance over a period of time, it then becomes comfortable. If you do what you had been doing, it feels awful. So you have to just give it some time."

Maddon devised a work plan Jaso had to follow every day.

"It basically had to do with getting rid of a bad habit," Jaso said. "Mentally, it was a little bit uncomfortable at first. But my body is starting to adapt to it. I can tell now that if I'm not in the stance, I'm not going to perform. So I can automatically tell myself I have to be up in the stance."

By the end of Spring Training, Maddon saw a marked improvement in Jaso's catching, and Maddon complimented the first game Jaso caught on Saturday night against the Red Sox, when James Shields started and the Rays won, 6-5.

"He caught really well Saturday," Maddon said. "You remember all the conversations we had; I was a little annoyed in the beginning. He's a different guy right now than what I saw the first few days of camp. Him and Bobby have done some great work. That's what we're looking for. What you saw [Saturday night], caught well, received the ball well, blocked well, had some good at-bats, but primarily he caught a good game and he caught a win."

Jaso, 26, caught three games for Triple-A Durham this season, hitting .364 with two RBIs and one double. He played in five games for the Rays in 2008 and went 2-for-10. He's a career .291 hitter in parts of eight Minor League seasons and is a five-time Minor League All-Star. His offense has never been a question, so now that his defense has improved, Shoppach's injury could bring Jaso a huge window of opportunity to show what he can do at the Major League level.

"I definitely don't like to see anybody get hurt -- I definitely don't want to be that guy," Jaso said. "I know I'll probably be up here for a while, so I just want to help the team when I can."