Kelly Hits Cardinals DL, Replaced by Baron

photo: Carson Kelly (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

Carson Kelly (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

The St. Louis Cardinals announced prior to tonight’s (Thursday’s) game that they have placed catcher Carson Kelly (right hamstring strain) on the 10-day disabled list, retroactive to May 16, and purchased the contract of catcher Steven Baron from Memphis (AAA). To make room for Baron on the team’s 40-man Major League roster, the Cardinals transferred right-handed pitcher Adam Wainwright (right elbow inflammation) from the 10-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list.

Baron, 27, who was signed as a minor league free-agent last December, will be making his first appearance in the majors since a four-game stint with Seattle in 2015.

The right-handed hitting Baron was batting .153 (9-for-59) in 17 games (17 starts) for Memphis, throwing out four of 10 attempted base-stealers. He has a career .233 batting mark with 29 home runs and 255 RBI in 642 minor league games.

The Cardinals have had five players go on the disabled list in the past week: Carlos Martínez (right lat strain), Tyler Lyons (mid back strain), Adam Wainwright (right elbow inflammation), Luke Gregerson. (right shoulder impingement) and now Kelly.

Baron has been assigned uniform no. 61.

Derek Shore’s take

Steven Baron (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

Just another day, another Cardinals player that hits the shelf.

Kelly is the second catcher (after Yadier Molina) to go down due to injury over the last two weeks.

Baron, who opened the season as the backup catcher to Kelly at Triple-A Memphis, moves up to St. Louis in the corresponding move to replace his former catching mate.

Baron was one of two catchers the Cardinals signed to minor league contracts this past offseason. Francisco Pena was the other, as he broke camp with St. Louis as the backup to Yadier Molina. Now, he looks to receive the lion’s share of time with Kelly out and Baron sliding in as the backup.

The 27-year old Baron was among a number of catchers who scored non-roster invitations to big-league spring training camp. He hit .214 (3-for-14) with a double and two RBI in a dozen games for the Cardinals this spring.

A first-round pick by the Mariners in 2009, Baron methodically worked his way through their system, and made his MLB debut in September 2015. He was returned to Double-A in 2016 and did not make it back to Seattle before being designated for assignment, and subsequently released in November 2016.

The 6-foot, 205-pounder then re-signed with Seattle on a minor league deal for 2017 and spent most of last season at Triple-A. Baron also played in 16 games back in the Texas League, with 2017 his fourth consecutive year having spent time at Double-A.

Entering this season, the right-handed hitter had an aggregate line of .235/.295/.339/.634. Known more for his defense, Baron earned a solid 40.3 percent caught stealing rate over his career.

It should also be noted the Cardinals now have eight players on the disabled list: Kelly, Luke Gregerson, Carlos Martinez, Dominic Leone, Tyler Lyons, Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, and Alex Reyes.

Knizner benefits

Andrew Knizner (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

With Baron up, TCN’s No. 8 prospect Andrew Knizner will get his first taste of the Pacific Coast League, earning a long overdue promotion to Triple-A Memphis from Springfield. Given his prospect status, he should receive everyday duties behind the plate with Jeremy Martinez as the backup. Martinez was promoted to Memphis on May 12.

Simply put, all Knizner has done since entering the pro ranks in 2016 is hit, carrying a career slash line of .312/.381/.476 while improving his defense behind the plate. This season, the 23-year old took his offense to another level, leading the Texas League in April with a .417 average (25-for-60) before slowing to the tune of a .222 average (10-for-45) so far in May.

Overall at Springfield, Knizner was hitting .333 with eight doubles, two homers, and 18 RBI in addition to a superb 11-to-11 strikeout to walk ratio over 27 games. He also posted a solid .878 OPS in 105 at-bats.

Springfield manager Johnny Rodriguez outlined Knizner’s offensive progress two weeks ago.

“He goes so well to right-center,” Rodriguez said. “He just doesn’t try to do too much. When he doesn’t try to do too much, he is going well. When he does try to do too much, he gets pull-happy and a lot of popups. Eventually, he is going to have power to center to right-center and balls are going to have a long way out there.”

Asked at that time if he is ready for the next step, Rodriguez demurred.

“No, he still needs work,” his manager said. “His offensive numbers are really good. He has done his work behind the plate – continue to execute the game plan. I think he still needs more time there behind the plate and continue to develop the approach he has developed so far… take it to another level.”

Originally, the Cardinals were reluctant to promote Knizner to Triple-A as they didn’t want to rush his defensive progress at Double-A. Now, with Kelly out for the foreseeable future at least, it will certainly be interesting to see how Knizner performs at Triple-A.

Corresponding move for Knizner

Springfield’s roster replacement is to be announced. Chris Chinea is the only catcher remaining on the Double-A roster and he has been backing up injured first baseman John Nogowski.

The most obvious candidates to replace Knizner are Jose Godoy or Brian O’Keefe at High-A Palm Beach. At Low-A Peoria, Dennis Ortega, a more well-regarded defensive catcher, perhaps is another candidate, though unlikely.

Godoy to Springfield

Jose Godoy (Palm Beach Cardinals)

Later Thursday afternoon, Springfield announced the addition of Godoy from Palm Beach as Knizner’s replacement. It was the most logical move, but some of the catching transactions lately have been head scratchers.

The 23-year old native of Venezuela was off to a nice start with the bat for the high-A Cardinals with a slash line of .333/.417/.444/.861 in 63 at-bats over 21 games. Godoy spent all of 2017 with Palm Beach and had a very brief one-game cameo with Springfield in 2016. The left-handed hitter’s OPS last season was .691, close to his career .710 mark.

Even before a roster addition to replace him, Palm Beach has both O’Keefe and Ryan McCarvel active to share the catching duties.

(this capsule written by Brian Walton)

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