JUPITER, FL. (KMOV.com) -- Wednesday was a day of debuts for the Cardinals, and while Yadier Molina dominated the early morning news cycle, the team got a look at newest rotation member Mike Leake.
The lanky, energetic righty threw two innings on 25 pitches against the Marlins, and got his first taste of game action with Molina behind the plate. He found out a couple days ago he would have the longtime Cardinal catcher as his battery mate.
“It was kind of a surreal moment because I’m throwing to a future Hall of Famer and not many people can say that,” Leake said.
The two worked two scoreless innings together, with Molina acting as maestro for the 28-year-old former Red.
“I was kind of just going, letting Yadi call the game and just trying to hit the glove,” Leake said, explaining his first start was more of a reintroduction to game action than anything else. “Probably next one I might incorporate a few more pitches I’d like to throw in there.”
Even with a laid back approach and a short window of work, Leake left a mark on Molina.
This guy is a good pitcher. I faced him for many years. To be out there catching him, he’s fun to catch,” the catcher said. “He puts the ball where he wants to. He locates, splits the corner. It’s fun to catch him.”
Due to Molina’s recovery from thumb surgery this offseason, the two haven’t had time to familiarize themselves with one another. Leake, who off the field as as easygoing as a yogi, didn’t seem concerned about the introduction process.
“I think we both kind of understand each other, so I don’t think there’s an urgency for that to occur,” he said. “The initial relationship is more learning his setup as a catcher and seeing where I would want to aim with certain pitches. That’s kind of the biggest part initially… I don’t feel like it will take a long time for us to get used to each other.”
But that doesn’t mean he’s not excited for the future. Molina brings a near-eidetic memory to the position, remembering pitching sequences, hitter weaknesses and tendencies for years. With that type of knowledge base at a pitcher’s disposal, it’s easy to see why they love throwing to him.
“I think his knowledge of the hitters and how to approach pitches throughout the count will help me not to think as much,” said Leake.
“I think he and Yadi are going to have fun together,” Mike Matheny added. “I think Yadi is the type of catcher that can help Mike be creative , and he has the stuff to be very creative. I think they are going to enjoy the chess match, cat and mouse game. Guys like that are fun to catch.”
Leake struck out two and allowed two hits during his six outs, walking none. Though he started to elevate pitches near the end of his start, he entered the clubhouse with an easy grin; his Cardinal debut now in the books.
“I feel like every time you get to take the mound it’s a special moment,” he said. “Because not everybody can do it and I’m fortunate to be doing it.”