Cardinals 5, Marlins 4
The Cardinals snapped a three-game losing streak with Tuesday’s win, which was highlighted by the ongoing rotation competition. No, manager Mike Matheny did not make any sort of declaration afterward about who will round out of the team’s rotation. Rather he spoke about his comfort in letting the battle play out for a little while longer.
“They just keep making this [decision] tougher on us, and that’s what they should be doing,” Matheny said. “They continue to get their pitch counts built up and everybody is moving forward in a good direction.”
Here, in today’s cardinals.com notebook, you can read about the adjustment that both Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly made in Tuesday’s appearance. Miller’s was on the physical side and was prompted by a revelation that he was tipping some of his pitches. Kelly’s change is more striking, as it is one that will alter who he is as a pitcher. The Cardinals want him to step back from being a power pitcher and instead find a future with his sinker.
The long-term benefit? Quicker outs. That, of course, would set Kelly up to pitch deeper in starts.
“I think he’s just kind of developing his mentality as much as anything – the idea that he can be a guy that gets the groundball early in the count and uses the defense,” Matheny said. “There’s nothing wrong with pitching to contact, even if you have the ability of throwing 95 to 96 [mph]. He has interesting stuff that is sometimes hard for him to define who he is as a pitcher. He has enough power to throw the ball past somebody, but he has enough sink to be efficient. It’s one of those times where he’s feeling his way through it.”
It’s a vision that the Cardinals have had for a while, but one that they also wanted to ease Kelly into.
“I actually stayed away from this whole concept,” Matheny said. “We put all this on him that there is this huge competition walking into Spring Training. And you want him to go and compete without giving him too much stuff to think about. But now we’re getting to the point where we’re trying to figure out our club and prepare whoever it is going to be. This is an overhaul of the mentality, which is a big deal. It’s just a matter of where Joe goes from here.”
Catcher Audry Perez won’t be in camp much longer, since Yadier Molina is expected back from the World Baseball Classic on Thursday. But the 24-year-old backstop, who is pegged to start the season in Double-A, will leave having made his first start in Grapefruit League play.
It came on Tuesday, but not after the Cardinals had put Perez through a rigorous exercise on the bench. For the last few games, Perez has been charting every pitch of the game, specifically so that he can note pitch sequences. He would then be tested by assistant hitting coach/former catcher Bengie Molina to recite certain sequences used against certain batters. Molina would require the at-bat outcome, too.
It’s an exercise that Matheny has actually encouraged the Minor League staff to employ, one that he hopes will help young catchers in the system become more prepared to call a game. In some cases, teaching the art of game calling has become a necessity.
Said Matheny: “If we have some catchers who are conscientious and want to be better and we want to teach them how to call a game… we have kids, now, from as they get out of tee ball that there’s a coach on a bucket telling them what pitch to throw. And they’re taking out the joy of the game. … They get to us and all of a sudden we’re amazed that they don’t have any idea how to call a game. Well, it’s no wonder. No one has ever taught them.”
There was no obvious disconnect with Perez and any of the pitchers he caught on Tuesday. And while he won’t get credit for it, he made a throw to second that would have caught Juan Pierre as he tried to steal. A walk negated the attempt.
“We’ve seen three great throws from him now that weren’t rushed and were very under control,” Matheny said. “When I watch Yadi and Tony [Cruz], there are usually so few things [awry] that I don’t really have to pay that much attention. I have my eyes on other things. But I can’t help but see a lot of the things that Audry still has to learn. It’s a long list. He gets hit by me as soon as he comes off the field. He takes 15 steps and Bengie is in his face. But that’s beautiful.
“This is a great opportunity for them, not to say that we have all this wisdom, but it’s some things for him to work on that he might now have thought about before.”
The Cardinals are off on Wednesday before returning on Thursday for their final stretch of games. I hope, though, that you will visit cardinals.com on Wednesday to read a story that I have enjoyed working on for the last week. I’ll let that serve as the tease.
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