Catching Up

Anderson's defense has progressed with him to the majors





ST. LOUIS—After years of being pegged as a prospect for his bat, Bryan Anderson had to improve his defense to find a route to the majors. And he picked up an influential fan on the way.

Anderson made his major league debut on April 17 and made his first start three days later. During spring training, Anderson was one of the first players dismissed from major league camp, but when the Cardinals needed a catcher, Anderson leapfrogged Matt Pagnozzi for the opportunity. Anderson's 6-for-18 start for Triple-A Memphis helped. But it was the reference he got from former Cardinals' catcher Mike Matheny that clinched his promotion.

"It's neat to see a guy get rewarded for his efforts," Matheny said.
The former Gold Glove catcher took a shine to Anderson several springs ago, and each spring training he has worked with the youngster on his ability to handle the position and a pitcher.

Anderson, who once ranked as high as No. 2 in the organization because of his level swing and nose for the strike zone, was viewed widely as too rigid and unaccomplished behind the plate. He had difficulty catching the eye of the major league staff even with his swing because they put such an emphasis on defensive catchers at the major league level.

Anderson, 23, took strides behind the plate this spring. He "softened up," according to Matheny, who is now in the club's front office, and became more adept at receiving pitches, instead of snapping at them. The 2005 fourth-round pick out of Simi Valley (Calif.) High also improved his footwork, which assisted an unorthodox but effective throwing motion.

He also realized his position is not about personal performance.

"I stopped looking at myself and started thinking about those (pitchers) and getting through a game and trying to get the best out of them," Anderson said. "It was the No. 1 thing for the last couple years—improving on the defense and getting that going so I could get called up."

REDBIRD CHIRPS

• Shortstop Ryan Jackson, a 2009 fifth-round pick out of Miami, has a reputation of sporting a slick glove and uncertain bat, but opened the season with low Class A Quad Cities hitting .308/.431/.385 through his first 52 at-bats.

• Trey Hearne went 14-4, 2.92, at Double-A and Triple-A combined last season, but his return to Triple-A has been detoured by the disabled list. The righty remained at extended spring to regain shoulder strength. When cleared he'll likely report to the Memphis rotation.