DENVER — After the Rockies parted ways with veteran Chris Iannetta, they called upon catching Dom Nuñez to take his place on the active roster. Nuñez, much like Tony Wolters, was drafted as an infielder but has converted to catcher and has worked really hard to make the transition. After hitting .244/.362/.559, with some help from Drew Butera on the defensive side, Nuñez seems finally ready to make an impact on this roster. He went 1-for-4 in his Tuesday night debut, with two high pop ups and a 417-foot home run to the bullpen. He also channeled his inner Tony Wolters and caught his first potential base stealer — fellow rookie Josh Rojas, who made his major league debut on Monday.
After letting the bright lights and big moments of his debut sink in for a night, Nuñez said that, “[I] felt like I tried to take in as much as possible. Some of the texts I was getting, I was just trying to take in as much as possible from friends and family. It was awesome, definitely a day that I’ll never forget.”
Luckily for him, he was able to catch three guys who he was very familiar with to start — Jeff Hoffman, Jesus Tinoco, and Carlos Estévez. Hoffman and Tinoco in particular have spent considerable time in Albuquerque this year, combining for 105 2⁄3 innings in 43 appearances between the two of them. He mentioned that it helped with his comfort, “but from now on [I] gotta be ready to catch everyone so I’m excited about that as well.”
There’s certainly a lot of preparation that goes into playing baseball, particularly for a catcher making his major league debut. Drew Butera helped Nuñez prepare in the minor leagues, but now that role has fallen to Tony Wolters. Nuñez said that his prep leading up to the start entailed “a little more video work with Tony. He helped me out with scouting reports. Obviously the coaching staff as well, just walking through hitters and stuff like that because I hadn’t really seen these hitters that much. A lot of them have been up here for a while so just trying to piece stuff together, but also keep it as simple as possible.”
That was something that Butera taught Nuñez too. In a previous interview, Nuñez said that Butera really emphasized the fact that “‘you’re just gonna get thrown more when you hit the big leagues so just kinda processing what you like and what you need, taking that with you.’”
He also mentioned that the two exchanged texts last night. “He texted me last night, just ‘congratulations, take it all in,’” Nuñez said. “I just texted him and said ‘thanks for everything, I appreciate this year. I’ve learned more than I’ve ever learned before.’ So yeah, I’m just really appreciative for everything he’s done for me.”
Now, Nuñez has a new veteran to look up to: Tony Wolters. Wolters also emphasized just enjoying the moment.
“It’s all about being in the moment.” Wolters said, “Right now, coming up, I remember I was told, ‘Keep it simple. Keep it very simple. You can go down and away to anyone; you can throw spin to anyone, you know? Just keep it very simple. Keep your mind kind of free and just focus on the pitcher’s strengths and just execute that way.’”
The two have hit the ground running to get Nuñez up to speed on how to be a major league catcher. Wolters provided some insight as to what they’ve been working on:
“As he goes he’ll start learning how to pick scouting reports and to see what he wants from each scouting report because you’ll look at our reports and like there’s millions of answers on there, but I’ve had to filter that down by a lot. It’s taken me a long time to make my report how I want it, but he’s gonna learn that,” Wolters said.
Wolters continued, “I’m just having him come to the meetings and hearing how we’re executing plans — just getting ready, how I look at hitters, how I look at video. It’s having that routine. You come in, ‘ok, I’m gonna look at my video real quick, get my reports done, execute my plan, get my plan on my sheet, and let’s go and then be free.’
“He has a routine, I think he’ll keep refining it. He looks like he’s relaxed back there, he’s breathing. It’s all about the slow heartbeat. I think that’s the biggest thing with catching is slow heartbeat,” Wolters said. He also mentioned that he’s excited to see what Nuñez can do and how cool it will be working together.
Nuñez echoed what Wolters told him: “Yesterday [Wolters] just said, ‘take it all in and have fun, just be yourself because that’s why you’re here is because you are who you are’ so I thought that was awesome. All the guys, they all embraced me and they made it a day that I’ll never forget.”
It was certainly a memorable debut, and hopefully the start of many glimpses into the Rockies’ future.