Cleveland brass surprised Tony Wolters with an offer in the final days of Spring Training. A third-round pick in 2010, Wolters had fared well as a middle infielder in two-plus years in the Minors. Then the Indians asked him to consider becoming a catcher.
After talking it over with family and friends, Wolters went ahead with the conversion. He rejoined the Carolina Mudcats, the club he played with last year, and has delighted team officials with his progress.
"He's been doing great," said Carolina manager David Wallace, a former Minor League backstop. "He's definitely exceeded my expectations for this point in the process. When we first decided to make the change, I believed he could do it because I know him, but I was not as optimistic about it as I am now."
The Indians put the decision in Wolters' hands. They told him he could go back to being an infielder, if needed. But the challenge of trying to make himself a catcher really inspired him.
"I was nervous and excited at the same time for a new opportunity," he said. "I'm enjoying it. I've got great people around me who are helping me through all this."
The teaching process began with fundamentals. Wolters played DH with the Mudcats the first few weeks while working on the basics of his new position. After that, the organization sent him to Arizona for more fundamentals work and instruction.
Wolters also went to Cleveland to connect with coach Sandy Alomar, a long-time catcher in the Majors, as well as manager Terry Francona. The Mudcats then began to put him in games upon his return.
"I was actually surprised," Wolters said. "It came pretty easily to me actually. It's all coming together."
Wallace, who pencils in Wolters at catcher about every other day to ease his body into the grind, likes how well he has picked up details such as pregame preparation, working with pitchers and being a leader. It's simply a process that takes time, and Wolters has the necessary patience.
Listed at 5-foot-10, 177 pounds, Wolters continues to find success at the plate. He batted .260 with eight homers and 58 RBIs in 125 games last season. This year, he's hitting .265 with three homers and 19 RBIs in 43 contests.
Wolters said he is doing more flexibility exercises and getting used to the grind, but the 21-year-old is happy with his decision and has no regrets.
"I'm a catcher now -- I tell people that," Wolters said. "I can still play middle infield. I take grounders every day, but I'm a catcher now."
Power trip: Winston-Salem shortstop Chris Curley showed some power Monday night, banging two homers and driving in five runs. Curley hit a two-run homer and a three-run shot, both off Potomac starter Matt Purke, as the Dash won a 12-9 slugfest.
Good timing: Stefan Welch capped a 3-for-6 performance with a walk-off single in the 10th inning to give Salem a 7-6 victory over Myrtle Beach on Monday night. Salem scored four runs in the ninth to force extra innings, setting up Welch's game-winning hit.
Much improved: Potomac's Ivan Pineyro gave up five runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings in his first start June 22, but he rebounded quickly, throwing seven dominant innings in a 3-0 victory over Wilmington on July 4. Pineyro allowed just three hits and earned his first Potomac win.