Michael Baron: This winter, you worked extensively on your defense.
Josh Thole: I went down to Dallas to work with our minor league catching coordinator. He knows me, and I have trust him. I emphasized my stance - both with men on base and nobody on base. In watching film from last year, it was the part of the puzzle I was missing; the inconsistency with my stances. I don't know why I did that. But I noticed sometimes I was on a knee, sometimes I was crouched down - everything wasn't flowing right. I spent a couple of weeks with him and getting my stance online.
Michael Baron: Would you get distracted in-game about your fundamental issues, or did this just evolve and you never noticed it?
Josh Thole: I watched hours of film and really never pinpointed it last year. I broke it down from square one. I don't think I thought about my mechanics. I was just going out there to try and catch the ball.
Michael Baron: Could some of those struggles be attributed to having to catch R.A. Dickey's knuckleball?
Josh Thole: I don't think that was the issue - I caught R.A. the year before and had no problems. That would be an invalid and poor excuse as to why it became an issue. I had a chance to talk with Doug Mirabelli when he caught Tim Wakefield last year, and the one thing he said was 'you're going to lead the league in passed balls.' Now all of a sudden I have 16 passed balls, and now I'm not a good catcher. That's how I got labeled, and I have to do a better job of catching R.A. if I want to get rid of that label.
Michael Baron: Do you pay attention to your statistics?
Josh Thole: You just go out there and play, but when you're answering the same questions day in and day out, all of a sudden you have seven passed balls and it's May, eight and it's June, and then there's a week left in the season and they say 'you're going to lead the league in passed balls' - I knew that coming in, that's part of what I signed up for. I know I ended with 16 but I don't know what the ratio was with R.A.. But the ones I didn't have with R.A. are the ones I have to clean up.
Michael Baron: What are some of the areas you are looking to improve and refine offensively this season?
Josh Thole: Reality is reality - I am a base hit hitter, and I need to get back to doing that. I'm a guy that gets on base, so I need to work the count, get base hits, and walk. I personally feel like that's what I have to get better at. I spent the first two months of last season trying to hit doubles and home runs and it didn't really pay off. Then, come the end of May into June, I changed my approach and it paid dividends. I thought I got myself going again, got my base hits, and a home run or two.
Michael Baron: When it comes to preparation and making adjustments, is there anything fundamentally that you do, or is it reverting to your original mental approach?
Josh Thole: Defensively, yeah it's physical. I have the basis of what I do - how I throw guys out, how I block. But as far as starting over, yeah it was starting from scratch with my stance and saying 'this is the position I need to be in.' Offensively, I looked at film from 2009 and 2010 and I was hitting the ball the other way, reacting to balls inside, and I shouldn't have gotten away from that. So I have been trying to get back to that.
Michael Baron: Have you always choked up a lot?
Josh Thole: I started in 2008 when I was in the Florida State League. Tim Teufel was my manager then, and I was getting all my hits with two strikes after choking up and he said 'why don't you do this all the time?' It took off from there.