The recent contract extension for St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina hasn’t slowed down prospect Carson Kelly. The Memphis Redbirds catcher hit his third home run of the season on Thursday night and enters the weekend batting .300.
“I was happy,” shared Kelly this afternoon on St. Louis Baseball Weekly. “I was happy that Yadi gets to be a Cardinal for the next few years and it’s more of an opportunity for me to learn. I can only control what I can control, so being here in Memphis I’m going to make the best of my opportunity here. I’m extremely happy for Yadi. Everything that he’s done, he deserves it and I’m excited to learn from him for the next few years.”
“He’s been so gracious towards me and helping me in my career, I think it’s going to be very beneficial for me in the next few years and it’s going to continue to get better and better every single year.”
Ranked as the top catching prospect in baseball by MLB.com, the 22-year old Kelly made his debut last season and appeared in 10 games. Now as the everyday catcher in Memphis (AAA), he isn’t getting caught up in how many years he may still have ahead of him when the Molina extension finishes.
“I take it day by day and focus on my process rather than get super result oriented–I think that’s something I’ve learned over the years,” he said. “It’s a long season and to being able to focus on what you’re doing right now in your process and your work before the game, maybe the adjustments your trying to make, focusing on that will eventually get you to your results over the course of the year. No matter what happens this first week, first month you continue to develop and work hard to hopefully put yourself in a good position for a playoff run.”
When the extension with Molina was finalized, the Cardinals did reach out to Kelly to make sure he understood his importance to the organization.
“Yeah, they got the message across saying that nothing’s changed–you continue to work and you continue to develop and go out and play and perform” shared Kelly. “I mean that’s all you can focus on and work on and that’s something that I take to heart and I’m going to make the most of my opportunity, wherever that is.”
Drafted in the second round of 2012, Kelly was originally a third baseman before converting to catcher a few seasons ago. With Molina signed through 202o, is there any consideration to getting some work again at third–or even first base or the outfield?
“No, there hasn’t been that much thought on that,” answered Kelly. “I always am prepared for whatever the case may be to go out and perform. None of that has ever really come up recently, I’m just going to continue to be the best catcher and teammate I can be.”
There is also a difference in the perception and reality of changing positions–even if it’s a former one.
“It would be extremely difficult because you’ve solely focused the last four years now on one position–maybe the most difficult position with battling the hitting and the defense,” said Kelly. “I think that focusing on one his hard enough, so switching over back to another would be difficult. But if the opportunity was there, I’m ready. No matter what position it is, I’ll be ready. Probably at catcher, I would say.”
ANOTHER STRONG START FOR LYONS
–Pitcher Tyler Lyons allowed just two hits with 8 strikeouts in 6.0 innings pitched on Wednesday night at Memphis. It was the second rehab start for Lyons, who has yet to give up a run in 9.1 combined innings.
“He was pretty locked in,” said Kelly. “He had control of all his pitches and in the zone and throw the hard slider underneath to get some swing and misses. He did a tremendous job. Anytime there were some guys on base, he slammed the door.”
The numbers were not as impressive for Mitch Harris, who was activated from the disabled list on Thursday and allowed three hits and two earned runs in 1.0 inning of work.
“Mitch had good stuff,” explained Kelly. “Even though there were the numbers–there were a couple broken bat flares and then maybe one hit that brought them all around. He was down in the zone and control of his pitches. Another thing was, he hasn’t been out there for a long time and he looked poised. He looked under control, that’s how he always looks, but he looked very comfortable and I think that’s a big step in his process.”
photo credit: STLBaseballWeekly.com; Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports