After 1st hit, Knizner eyes long-term impact
Rookie catcher lauded for skills behind plate
CINCINNATI -- Andrew Knizner was so excited that the ball he hit off Chris Archer on Wednesday landed in the outfield, he clapped his hands coming out of the batter’s box… and then realized he had to get on base.
After sprinting to first, the Cardinals catcher made it to second with ease, celebrating -- safely on a bag -- his first Major League hit with the Cardinals dugout. The ball was getting an inscription as Knizner took batting practice Thursday in Cincinnati, and he hopes to have it soon. He said he’ll give it to his mom to put on the mantle in the family living room.
“All the guys were joking that I’m officially a big leaguer after the hit,” Knizner said. “Now I can settle in and worry about putting together good at-bats. I don’t have to worry so much about pushing a hit through. Now that I have an official batting average, even though it’s not great, I can go up there and relax.”
Knizner made his Major League debut on June 2 against the Cubs -- when he caught Adam Wainwright’s eight scoreless innings -- but was sent back to Triple-A Memphis without a hit when Yadier Molina was activated off the injured list. With Molina on the injured list again, Knizner is with the Cardinals and hopes to have more of an impact at the plate.
He’s already made an impact behind the plate. The Cardinals are 3-1 in games Knizner has started, and he takes pride in that record. After each of his four starts, he’s earned high praise from manager Mike Shildt and each of the pitchers, including Wainwright on June 2. Wainwright said Knizner put a few signs down that day that Wainwright wouldn’t have called, and those calls resulted in a few outs.
“It’s a two-man team out there; you guys are both in it,” Knizner said. “My main focus is making sure I have the right game plan for each individual guy and go out there and execute it.”
Although Knizner has been to Cardinals Spring Training, executing a game plan can be a hard thing to do for a rookie catcher facing Major League opponents for the first time in the regular season. But Knizner has used the resources he receives from the coaching staff, scouting reports and film to his advantage, as well as learning from Molina and catcher Matt Wieters.
Knizner is confident in his skill set, but he knows how much improvement he can make while with the Cardinals. So, he re-watches film, asks questions and writes everything down.
“He’s taken a lot of pride in putting a game plan together,” Wieters asid. “It’s been exciting to see a young kid come up and not just think about the hitting part of it or throwing part of it. He’s taken pride in realizing that no matter how good of a game he has, if the pitcher has a good game, we’ve got a good chance to win.
“He’s been very good about feeling confident but also being able to ask questions where he can learn and improve. He’s not just doing it as, ‘I don’t have any idea,’ he’s doing it as, ‘I’ve got a good idea, but I want to hear what you think about it.’”
Speaking of catchers
Shildt said Molina’s right thumb tendon strain is healing, but the medical staff gave Molina a hard three weeks until being evaluated again to start baseball activities. That evaluation will likely come around July 29, and it will determine when Molina will begin his rehab.
“He reluctantly agreed to it, as did I,” Shildt said. “It’s his second round with [the injury]. He’s had history with it, so the recommendation is three weeks and then evaluation, and we’re working toward that evaluation. Hopefully it’s healed and everything is behind him and he can resume the activities he needs.”