During the first portion of the Springfield Cardinals’ season, catcher Pedro Pages has served a vital role as interpreter for teammate Moises Gomez, a fellow native of Venezuela.
Gomez, who does not speak English, racked up interview requests with each passing home run. He was leading all of Minor League Baseball with 15 as the Cardinals opened a road trip at Wichita May 17. The bilingual Pages, whose family moved to south Florida when he was four, was happy to help.
But last week, following batting practice at Hammons Field, it was time for Pages to talk about himself. The 23-year-old has been an emerging player in his own right, with 6 home runs, 20 RBIs and a .988 OPS (on-base plus slugging).
All the while, Pages has been solid defensively while sharing catching duties with Juli Rodriguez and Nick Raposo.
“I’m very happy with the results I’ve gotten,” Pages said of his first season in Double-A. “I’m just trying to stay focused day-to-day and keep working hard and put myself in the right place.”
Pedro Pages at a glance
Born: 9-17-1988 in Maracay, Venezuela
Resides: Miami, Florida
College: Florida Atlantic
Acquired by Cardinals: Selected in 6th round (185th overall) in 2019 MLB draft
Providing a boost at the plate
Manager Jose Leger said Pages’ hitting has been — maybe not a surprise — but pleasant to have in the middle of the lineup behind Gomez and top prospect Jordan Walker.
The right-handed swinging Pages (pronounced pah-HEHZ) hit two home runs Friday night against Amarillo and another on Sunday against the same team.
“Being able to catch, that covers calling a good game and being a leader,” Leger said. “He’s been good at throwing to the bases, been good at blocking. That’s what we want from our catchers.
“His hitting has been a plus, being able to contribute in the middle of the order. He’s putting together good at-bats.”
While he left Venezuela at the age of four, Pages is aware of how much baseball means to the people in his native country. He said his favorite Venezuelan player is Miguel Cabrera who, ironically, was signed to his first pro contract in 1999 at the age of 16 by Pages’ grandfather.
“One of the greatest hitters ever,” Pages said of Cabrera, an 11-time All-Star and four-time American League batting champion.
Solid behind the plate
Defense has always been a strength for Pages, a sixth-round draft selection in 2019 out of Florida Atlantic University. He was Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year as a junior and said he’s always treated that part of the game with reverence.
Even when he struggles at the plate, Pages said he’s determined to leave that behind when he puts on the catching equipment.
“Some days the hitting can go good or bad,” he said. “At least I can contribute defensive-wise and take pride in that. I can work with my pitchers and, if they succeed, I succeed.”
That’s something that Yadier Molina emphasized while working with the minor-league catchers during spring training the last two years.
He admitted that meeting Molina, the nine-time Gold Glove catcher for the big-league Cardinals, was intimidating.
“I’m going to be honest, I was nervous,” Pages said. “I was like, ‘Damn, this is a guy I’ve been looking up to my whole life.’ Being a part of the same organization and being able to work with him is crazy. It’s a great experience.
“He focuses a lot on defense and so do the Cardinals. It’s always been a defensive organization. You can see it up and down with all the Gold Gloves.”
Leger said all the catchers in the organization try to emulate Molina, not just in style but with mental approach and work ethic.
“You see Yadi work in spring training, it’s amazing how he goes about his business,” Leger said. “The fact he takes his time to come to the minor leagues and work out with the minor-league catchers, it’s a great luxury to have.”
Using bilingual skills to help others
As the Cardinals seek replacements to carry on Molina’s legacy, with his pending retirement at season’s end, Pages could be in the discussion if he keeps progressing.
Pages’ ability to fluently speak English and Spanish won’t hurt his cause one bit.
“As you manage your pitching staff, there is going to be a mix of Americans and Latinos,” Leger said. “ If (a catcher) can speak both languages it makes it easier for him to communicate and express how he wants to attack batters, give feedback that pitchers need at times.
“Being able to communicate properly, to speak fluently in two languages, is a great tool to have.”
Pages said he’s simply happy to help young Latin players, whether it’s on the field or while out in the community socially.
“Thank God my parents taught me Spanish and English in school,” Pages said. “I’m glad to help out because I know how hard it is for them to learn the language. I’m here to help them.”
Cardinals upcoming schedule
On the road: At Wichita (May 17-22); at Tulsa (May 24-29)
Back home: May 31, 6:35 p.m., vs. Arkansas at Hammons Field