Phillies' Hot Heir

Catcher Tommy Joseph, acquired by the Phillies from the Giants in the Hunter Pence deal, is already showing signs of his big-league potential with Reading. RALPH TROUT / READING PHILLIES
Catcher Tommy Joseph, acquired by the Phillies from the Giants in the Hunter Pence deal, is already showing signs of his big-league potential with Reading. RALPH TROUT / READING PHILLIES
Posted: August 07, 2012

READING — After being traded from the Phillies to the San Francisco Giants last Tuesday, Hunter Pence had to brace himself for a long flight across the country to join his new team. Tommy Joseph, the centerpiece of the package the Phillies received in exchange for Pence, had a shorter trip to make.

All he needed to do was walk over to the other dugout.

A long farewell to his teammates on the Eastern League's Richmond Flying Squirrels would be useless, as he would face his former team that night in Richmond as a member of the Reading Phillies. Playing in what used to be his home ballpark and facing pitchers whose games he used to call, Joseph debuted for the Phillies with a strong 3-for-5 night at the plate, knocking in a run in a 7-4 victory. It was the type of performance his new club hoped to see from the catcher, who was ranked the second-best prospect in the entire Giants minor league system by the scouts at Baseball America.

"To be traded, at first, I was kind of scared. I had grown up in the Giants organization so all I've ever known is those guys in that clubhouse I was in," Joseph said. "But I'm going to another great winning organization with the Phillies so I'm excited to be here. To be in a trade as big as a Hunter Pence trade, it's huge to know that another team really wanted you that badly."

The 21-year-old backstop, who was acquired along with outfielder Nate Schierholtz and pitcher Seth Rosin, had a difficult transition on his hands when he switched clubs. Not only was he forced to transition to a new city, coaching staff and organization, but as a catcher he would have to accumulate enough knowledge about his pitchers to call winning games from Day 1. As difficult as it's been, it seems Joseph has taken the transition in stride.

Joseph has guided the Reading pitching staff with relative ease since the trade. In the five games he's caught for Reading — he started one game at first base — the Phillies are 4-1 and the team ERA is 2.14. In the one game he was at first, the R-Phils lost while surrendered seven runs in seven innings.

"I just try to understand what they want to show in certain situations. The last few nights, these guys coming out of the bullpen, I don't even know who they are. I'll talk to the starter before the game but I just want to see if I can handle making these adjustments on the fly," Joseph said.

He must be doing well with those guys he doesn't even know. The Phillies' bullpen has allowed just one earned run in 13 2/3 innings (0.66 ERA) with Joseph behind the plate.

After batting just .200 in 30 at-bats against the Phillies while playing with Richmond, Joseph enjoys his new job. Now, all he has to do is help the Phillies' pitchers get batters out, rather than face them.

"It's a little different. To tell you the truth, when I used to play against Reading I didn't fare to well at the plate," Joseph said. "They have good arms here and it's just fun to be able to catch them now and know that I don't have to hit against them anymore."

A change of scenery has also benefitted Joseph's hitting. He was batting .313 in his first five games before going 0-for-4 on Sunday night, dropping his average to .250. He batted .260 clip in 80 games for the Flying Squirrels.

Joseph will likely finish out the remaining month of the Eastern League season in Reading with what appears to be a bright future in store. Joseph, along with Sebastian Valle, who was promoted to Triple A Lehigh Valley after Joseph was acquired, is considered one of the catchers of the future in the Phillies organization. The big club will hope 33-year-old Carlos Ruiz has a couple of good seasons left in him, but eventually it likely will be Joseph and the 22-year-old Valle left to inherit the reins of the Phillies pitching staff. Joseph's ability to play first base provides further options if both he and Valle continue to show big-league promise.

Joseph said he tried not to think about other members of the organization while he was in the Giants system, and will continue to do so while in Philadelphia. But one would think playing behind Buster Posey, 25 years old and just named to his first All-Star team, might be discouraging for a young backstop trying to break into the big leagues himself. Now a member of the Phillies, Joseph will continue to concentrate on his own performance, but was grateful he holds his future in his hands.

"It's nice that people think that highly of you. It's a pretty cool honor to have, but that doesn't mean I have to stop working. It's not given to me," Joseph said. "So I've got to keep working and will hopefully one day become the future catcher of the Phillies."

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