For parts of four seasons, Xorge Carrillo was behind the plate at Double-A Binghamton with little opportunity to advance in the New York Mets’ organization.
“There were a lot of days where you’re just like ‘OK, what’s going on?’ I thought I had some pretty good numbers and pretty good performances all those four years that I was there, and then when I got the call up (to Triple A) for a couple weeks the two times I got up here, I thought I did well,” Carrillo said. “From that perspective, it’s kind of frustrating, but that’s not something I can control.”
So he put his head down and kept working. This year, he broke camp in Triple A as the 51s’ backup catcher.
And now that Kevin Plawecki is with the Mets, Carrillo has become Las Vegas’ primary catcher. He’s trying to make the most of the opportunity for however long it lasts.
“I stuck by it,” Carrillo said. “I just kept playing, and now that I get the opportunity, I think it’s finally a relief and I’m excited.”
The opportunity will last at least a little longer now that Mets starting catcher Travis d’Arnaud was put on the disabled list Friday, meaning Plawecki will stay in New York for now.
Las Vegas manager Pedro Lopez, also a former catcher, said Carrillo has done a good job with the 51s.
Entering Friday’s game against the Tacoma Rainiers at Cashman Field, he was hitting .250 with hits in each of his past three games. He has three multihit games, including a 4-for-4 effort against Albuquerque.
But above that, he prides himself on being a defensive catcher and everything that comes with it, from working with pitchers, calling games and controlling the running game.
“He’s just got to keep taking advantage of the opportunity. Hopefully he gets some more games behind the plate,” Lopez said. “If Kevin does come back and then Kevin goes back to being No. 1 and then he will have his two days a week, but the main thing here is for him to have a good frame of mind in order for him to move forward.”
Carrillo took a step forward this season, as two 51s catchers from last season — Johnny Monell and Nevin Ashley — are no longer in the organization. He is still behind d’Arnaud, Rene Rivera and Plawecki on the depth chart, but as a nonroster invitee to major league spring training for the past three years, he’s on the Mets’ radar.
“That was one of the positives of being stuck there — at least I was able to get those invites for three years in a row, and that’s saying something, especially with the Mets organization, where they only invite five catchers,” Carrillo said.
Carrillo said he tried to use those experiences to gain as much insight from the players and coaches.
“They are where I want to be. I feel like that’s how you get there,” he said. “If they’re there, they’ve done stuff right, so it’s definitely a good experience.”
He also went to the World Baseball Classic two months ago to represent Mexico in what he called one of his best experiences. Though Mexico went 1-2, the regional was on home soil before enthusiastic crowds.
Four years before, Carrillo had seen the passion around the tournament and decided he wanted to be part of it.
“To be honest, I didn’t think I could play for (Mexico), but as time just kept going, more people were talking about it, and they were like, ‘You could be our guy,’” he said.
He was their guy, and it was the first time he had the opportunity to wear the Mexico jersey.
It was also an experience that gave him confidence and helped him develop.
“It really helped me to grow as a player, as a catcher and know that I could play with the big leaguers because if I could play at that level, I could prove (to) myself that I could hit in the big leagues, catch at the big league level, and that was fun to know,” Carrillo said.
For now, he’ll settle for playing in Triple A.
“He did a good job for us for the time being at Binghamton, and he’s done a good job here,” said Lopez, his manager in Binghamton. “It’s all about being ready when your name is called. He’s done good and hopefully he keeps doing it.”
Contact Betsy Helfand at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @BetsyHelfand on Twitter.