Cardinals farmhand Kelly embraces new role as catcher

Posted Online: April 27, 2014, 6:26 pm
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By Daniel Makarewicz,
Conversations ignited by St. Louis Cardinals director of player development Gary LaRocque last fall ended with the club suggesting Carson Kelly switch positions.

Drafted as a third baseman, Kelly was given the option to become a catcher.

"I wanted to pursue it," Kelly said. "It would increase my value."

Six months into a transition that started during instructional league, there is no doubt in Kelly's mind that the decision will have countless benefits down the road. Moving to a new position that he last played in junior high also "has been a lot of fun so far."

"It's been tough at times. That's how it's going to be," Kelly said during a phone interview. "But every single day, I'm getting better. You just try to get better. Over time, that's going to be a huge step."

Viewing the request as a positive rather than a negative, Kelly is surviving the adjustment with a blue-collar approach. What helps him through it is knowing the club's history in position changes.

Pitcher Jason Motte originally was a catcher. Current back-up catcher Tony Cruz was a third baseman when he played for the Swing of the Quad Cities. All-Star infielder Matt Carpenter started as a third baseman, played the outfield and moved to second base before settling back at the hot corner.

Those are three examples. All proved to be the right moves.

"That's a big thing," Kelly said. "Having seen those guys do it, it gives me optimism. All of the Cardinals and their staff are behind me."

Drafted 86th overall out of high school two years and signed for a reported $1.6 million bonus, the Portland, Ore., native is viewed with excitement and intrigue in the organization based on his age and ability. With practice and seasoning, he could ascend the organizational ladder.

Part of that journey is learning how to catch. Aiding in the process was his work with Yadier Molina during spring training.

"It's been very helpful," Kelly said. "It's seeing how he goes about his business. Very professional."

Learning what it takes to master the craft from what many consider the game's best catcher, Kelly is improving his technique and adjusting to the "timing for receiving and blocking." There also are meetings with the pitching staff to analyze pitch selection and scouting reports.

Six months since the switch became official and three weeks into the competitive grind, things are getting a little easier.

"It's changed me as a player," Kelly said. "I definitely respect catchers a lot more know. ... It's been a great change."

Is there any indication he is being groomed to take over when Yadi retires?

"That's between the Cardinals. They have that planned out," Kelly said. "I'm going out each day trying to be the best player I can be. If that's what they have planned out, that's tremendous. I'm going to keep working."

The future remains unknown. The present, though, is encouraging.

Strictly a full-time catcher, Kelly has started 16 games behind the plate and carries a .258 batting average. Considering he still is two months shy of his 20th birthday, there remains time for him to fully adapt to his new position.

Everything points to Kelly reaching full potential. His best days clearly are ahead of him.

"Catching," Kelly said, "has been a blast."

River Bandits extra bases

Bandits this week: vs. Clinton (today-Thursday); at Beloit (Friday-Sunday)
Bandits news and notes: Moline graduate Thomas Lindauer had quite the week for the Bandits. In six games, the shortstop batted .346 with nine hits, two doubles, two home runs and eight RBIs. Lindauer is tied for the team lead with two home runs despite being with the club one week. ... By smacking 42 hits during three games at Clinton, the Bandits raised their team batting average from .265 to .282. ... QC's team on-base percentage of .368 is 15 points higher than any other club in the league. ... Tonight's doubleheader with be the Bandits' fourth this month. They are 3-3 in the previous three twinbills.
QC alumni: Memphis Redbirds outfielder Oscar Taveras is batting .303 with three home runs, four doubles and 12 RBIs this season. The top-rated prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals system also has an 11-game hitting streak. Taveras won the 2011 Midwest League batting title with the Quad Cities River Bandits.
FYI: Prior to Thomas Lindauer's arrival, the last home-grown product who played for the Quad-Cities' minor-league team was Mike Butcher in 1988. The United Township graduate pitched for the Quad City Angels that season.
Around the Midwest League: For the first time since 1999, two Australia-born managers faced each other. Fort Wayne manager Michael Collins is from Canberra and West Michigan skipper Andrew Graham hails from Sydney. ... Wisconin right-handed pitcher Taylor Williams allowed one hit over six scoreless innings on Saturday against Kane County. Williams retired the last 13 batters he faced in the Timber Rattlers' 5-4 loss.


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