LOUISVILLE, Ky. - After an injury riddled and slowed his start to this season, Louisville Bats catcher Nevin Ashley has gotten healthy and started to warm up along with the weather as the 2013 campaign has unfolded. Ashley, a 28-year-old catcher who got a non-roster invite to the Reds' spring training, has battled through early season shoulder tendinitis to improve his batting average each month and now sits with a .285 mark at the plate.
After a 10-day stint on the disabled list that started when the season was just a week old, Ashley hit over .300 in May, then caught fire in June, batting at a .364 clip as his playing time started to increase. Ashley put an exclamation mark on the month during back-to-back outings in its final week, going a combined 5-for-7 at the plate with three doubles and a pair of RBI to help the Bats earn a pair of victories over Rochester and Charlotte, respectively. Ashley was also a vital in the June 18 win over Durham, driving in the game-tying run and smacking a double in a pivotal sixth-inning rally that put the Bats on top for good.
Although Ashley's 34 starts behind the plate lead the team, he has also helped the Bats immensely when coming off the bench. Twice Ashley has delivered clutch pinch hits, including a game-tying, two-run home run against Lehigh Valley and a game-tying, two-run pinch-hit double against Indianapolis on July 3, which spurred Louisville to two of their 17 comeback victories this season. His six RBI as a pinch-hitter in 2013 lead the team.
With the improved production from Ashley, who has yet to allow a passed ball, the club has elected to keep just two catchers on the roster over the past month after starting the season with three. Combining with wily veteran Corky Miller, Ashley has given the Bats one of the most fundamentally sound defensive catching combinations in the league.
Ashley cut his teeth in the Tampa Bay Rays organization after being the team's sixth round pick in 2006. The former Indiana State University star slowly worked his up the Rays farm system, twice being voted the best defensive catcher in the team's organization. In each of the last three seasons, Ashley has spent portions of time at the Triple-A level, playing for the Bats' International League counterpart, the Durham Bulls. In his first season with Durham back in 2010, the Vincennes, Ind. native was on the Bulls team that knocked Louisville out of the playoffs in a thrilling five-game series. Ashley still makes his home in the Hoosier State, now living down the Ohio River in Evansville.
Earlier this season when Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan went on the disabled list, it was Miller who was called up to Cincinnati to fill in as the team's second catcher. With Ashley's improved play, however, another big league injury may make for a more difficult decision for Reds General Manager Walt Jocketty and the rest of the team's brass.