When the New York Mets claimed Anthony Recker off waivers from the Chicago Cubs in October, the Catasauqua High grad figured that, even if he didn't make the major league roster this spring, he'd at least be able to play closer to home.
However, he hadn't kept up on the offseason affiliation merry-go-round that resulted in the Mets' Triple-A affiliate shifting from Buffalo in the International League to Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League.
"My fiancee was the first one to tell me that, and all I could say was, 'Really?' " Recker said Thursday with a laugh.
But after playing part of the last four seasons in the PCL with Sacramento, Recker has seen enough of Las Vegas. He'd much rather open the 2013 season the same way he did the 2012 campaign, in a major league uniform, this time with the Mets.
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"I'm hoping to go into spring training and be able to do what I can do to show that I can be an asset to the team," Recker said.
Recker spent the first 7 1/2 years of his career in the Oakland organization, reaching the majors for the first time in August 2011 and earning a spot on the A's' Opening Day roster last season. But after being sent down to Sacramento in late May, he changed organizations twice in two months. The first time was on Aug. 27 when he was traded to the Cubs for catcher/first baseman Blake Lalli. Then, on Oct. 25, he was claimed by the Mets when the Cubs tried to remove him from their 40-man roster.
The trade to the Cubs, which resulted when they claimed him after the A's designated him for assignment , "kind of came out of the blue," Recker said.
After the trade he played a combined seven games with Triple-A Iowa and Double-A Tennessee before getting a September call-up to the Cubs. He will likely remember his tenure in the Cubs minor league system more for what took place off the field than on it — shortly after joining Iowa in Nashville, Recker proposed to his girlfriend, California native Kelly Shepardson.
"We originally met in Nashville, so it worked out pretty well," Recker said.
Recker hit .167 (3-for-18) in nine games with the Cubs and got his first major league home run, a solo shot off Jeff Locke in Pittsburgh on Sept. 9. He said he thought he "played pretty well." Six weeks later, however, the Cubs DFA'd Recker to make room for pitcher Carlos Gutierrez, who they claimed off waivers from Minnesota, and the Mets grabbed him.
"It's a business decision; teams need roster spots," Recker said of the process. "As a person, as a human being, there's some part of you that has to think they just don't want you there anymore. But you take it in stride the best you can, [and] if someone else picks you up or trades for you, that means they must want you. It's actually a neat way of finding out where you stand, and so far I've been fortunate enough to have teams interested enough in me to pick me up."
With the Mets, Recker appears to have a solid chance of breaking camp on the major league roster. The team traded its two main catchers last season, Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas, in the deal that sent Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays last month.
In return, the Mets received highly touted catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud, the former Phillies farmhand, but he is still recovering from a torn left posterior cruciate ligament that ended his minor league season in late June. Until he recovers enough to challenge for a big league spot — which some say could happen as early as midseason — John Buck, also picked up in the Dickey deal, is expected to fill in, with Recker as the backup.
"I really don't know what their plans are for me," Recker said. "I talked briefly with the team after they claimed me and they relayed to me that they thought I could be an asset to the team. So I just want to go to spring training and show I'm capable of handling anything they expect of me."
After spending the first eight years of his pro career playing in the Midwest and West, Recker is excited about the chance to play closer to home.
"I think it's every player's dream to be able to come back home and play at highest level," Recker said. "Obviously, my friends and family are all from around here, so to be able to play in New York and on the East Coast would be a dream come true."
Recker is also being reunited with former Alvernia College teammate Zach Lutz, one of the Mets' top infield prospects.
"It's definitely interesting — there's not too many Alvernia grads who have made it to the big leagues, and now there's two in the same locker room," Recker said, who was a senior when Lutz was a freshman. "It's going to be fun playing with him again, and he's a familiar face in the locker room I can talk to right away."
Recker, who plans to arrive in Port St. Lucie, Fla., late next week (about five weeks before the pitchers' and catchers' reporting date of Feb. 11) to work out with the Mets' training and conditioning staff, said he's not worried about having to impress a new set of observers after spending seven springs with the A's in Phoenix.
"Every year for me I've had to go in and prove what I can do, and prove that I'm capable of handling the biggest load they feel you can carry, and that's not going to change," Recker said. "I'm not changing my thought process or feeling any extra pressure. I just want to be the best player I can be and prove I can play at the highest level. If anything, it's a fresh start, a chance to make a new name for myself and show another team what I'm capable of."
ANTHONY RECKER FILE
•Born: Aug. 29, 1983.
Organization: New York Mets.
•High school: Catasauqua (2001).
•College: Alvernia (2005).
•Drafted by: Oakland A's 18th round, 2005 (551st overall).
•Transactions: Traded by Oakland to Chicago Cubs for Blake Lalli, Aug. 27, 2012; claimed off waivers by New York Mets, Oct. 25, 2012.
•Major league debut: Aug. 25, 2011, Yankee Stadium (0-for-4).
•Major league statistics: 27 games, .152 (10-for-66), 3 doubles, 1 home run, 4 RBI.
•Notable: 2001 Colonial League MVP for Catty. ... ECAC South Player of the Year in 2005 at Alvernia and second team Division III All-American catcher. ... Four-time minor league midseason all-star (Midwest League, 2006; California League, 2007; Texas League, 2008, Pacific Coast League, 2011). ... Career .272 average, 99 home runs in 726 minor league games