(BaseballStL) -- Because “Yadi’s not coming back soon,” St. Louis Cardinal Manager Mike Matheny will start new acquisition George Kottaras behind the plate for today’s 3:05 game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The back-up catcher was released from the Cleveland Indians organization the week Molina had surgery to repair ligaments in his right thumb. He is hitting .261 in limited action.
Matheny said Kottaras has been immersed in watching video, talking to the pitching staff at length and spending time in the bullpen learning each pitcher. “He’s been right on time with what he needed to do,” Matheny said before the game.
The Cards’ skipper said one of the most difficult steps in the learning process is how each pitcher uses his stuff and what it is that makes each one successful, something he felt the 31-year-old catcher had done. “You don’t stick around (as long as Kottaras has) without a sense of how to call a game.”
He said while the lower levels in the Cardinal organization stress teaching pitchers organizational philosophy on pitch calling according to situations, the majors is different. “First, pitcher strengths; second, hitter weakness; third organizational philosophy,” Matheny said.
A Gold Glove catcher himself, Matheny said the days when veteran catchers would get mad at young pitchers for shaking them off are a thing of the past. And he said, a catcher like Kottaras can learn quickly what a pitcher wants to throw in certain situations that way.
While Kottaras is known more for his bat than his glove, Matheny said he felt it was important for him to keep in the rhythm of playing by getting periodic starts.
Kottaras will be catching Joe Kelly in his second start back from a long stay on the disabled list recovering from a pulled hamstring. His first start last Friday is just a bad memory as the hard-throwing right-hander surrendered six runs early to the Milwaukee Brewers and struggled with command issues. But the Cards came back and won that game 7-6, taking Kelly off the hook. Matheny said Kelly is ready to pitch today.
“He made the adjustments he needed to make and he’s ready to go. You have days like that.” He said it wasn’t a problem with his stamina or arm strength, but rather the feel and location of his pitches. He also said that Kelly’s stay on the DL was longer because the Cardinals wanted to be sure he didn’t change any mechanics to favor the injured leg.
The Redbirds will face Zack Greinke (11-5, 2.73 ERA). Greinke is a solid starter after a Dodger loss, posting a 14-3 record after a loss with an ERA of just over two.
The Cards will start: