Griff Erickson entered the 2014 season as the forgotten man on the Albuquerque Isotopes’ roster. Stuck on the “phantom” disabled list, he was the third catcher behind veterans Miguel Olivo and Tim Federowicz.
Seasons rarely play out as teams expect, however. Erickson has now played 27 games behind the plate for the Isotopes (30-36), tops among the six catchers they have used this season.
“Going into the season I knew I was in a tough spot,” Erickson said. “I knew it wasn’t just because of the talent or anything like that. It was just because that’s how baseball is, there’s a certain kind of pecking order, guys are in certain spots at that time and you’ve got to wait your turn.
“That’s what I’ve done. I just kept myself ready for an opportunity. They’ve given me an opportunity and I’m thankful for every chance I get to get out there and play and it’s working out pretty good.”
With Olivo having been released and Federowicz in Los Angeles for a second time this season due to an injury to A.J. Ellis, Erickson has certainly had his opportunity for more playing time. He has taken that and played well, batting .282/.373/.476 with four home runs and 15 RBI.
“It’s going well,” Erickson said. “I know we’d like to win a few more games than we have. We’ve had a couple pretty tough losses (lately). But it’s going well for me. I’m just starting to get the hang (of it) at the plate. I feel my pitch selection is getting a lot better. I figure that’s what’s contributing to my success at the plate.”
Erickson’s manager is a former catcher as well. Damon Berryhill praised his 26-year-old backstop, who has hit .412 (14-for-34) over his last 10 games.
“Griff’s he played well,” Berryhill said. “He hasn’t had a ton of opportunities, but when he’s got his opportunities he’s performed behind the plate. He’s caught the ball well.
“His offense is coming around. He’s been swinging the bat well. He’s been giving us big ABs, a lot more consistent ABs. I think that’s come with a little bit more playing time. He’s trying to take advantage of this opportunity that he’s (been) given right now.”
Even while his team has been struggling, Erickson has remained one of the most upbeat players in the clubhouse and on the field. Staying positive is something he was taught as a survival tactic for the grind of a minor-league season.
“That’s one of the things you have to learn going through the minor leagues,” Erickson said. “Sure, you have to learn a lot of stuff on the field, but it’s more mental than anything else. I’ve heard a million people say that. The main thing I’ve picked up is you can’t get negative. It just turns it around on you and makes the game that much worse. If you stay positive, hopefully it rubs off on some other guys.”
Erickson is one of only three Albuquerque position players, along with center fielder Joc Pederson and current third-string catcher John Cannon, who were originally drafted and signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Most of the players who came into the organization back in 2006 with Erickson are long gone, save for first-round pick Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers) and second-round pick Bryan Morris (Marlins).
“It’s extremely tough,” Erickson said. “A lot of it’s got to do with injuries, things like that. Knock on wood, I’ve been pretty injury-free. A lot of that has to do with confidence, talent and perseverance. It’s been difficult, but you keep working hard, you keep your nose to the grindstone (and) it’ll work out.”
The Isotopes will wrap up their series with the Round Rock Express on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. Albuquerque is looking to avoid a series sweep.