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Carson Kelly Returns To Triple-A For More Repetitions

In need of playing time he wasn’t going to get in the majors, catcher Carson Kelly headed back to Triple-A Memphis as one of the sudden cuts of spring and a sign of the team’s plan for him.

He’ll be the backup, just not in the bigs.

"He needs play,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It’s a tough position to take. He’s still young with too high of a ceiling not to go and—more than anything—be ready if something happens and we need him to step in and be our guy. There aren’t going to be a whole lot of repetitions (in St. Louis) until then.”

The factors that shuttled Kelly, 23, back to Memphis were manifold.

The Cardinals started spring training expecting March to be the confirmation of Kelly as Yadier Molina’s backup, apprentice and, eventually, heir apparent. Instead, a competition happened. Minor league additions Francisco Pena and Steven Baron impressed the Cardinals with their reliability behind the plate, and Pena, the son of former Cardinals catcher Tony, earned praise for his work with pitchers.

The performance of Pena and Baron dovetailed with Molina’s annual intent to chase the NL lead for innings behind the plate and his clear health entering the season. Kelly’s struggles—he went 3-for-30 at the plate—contributed.

Kelly, the minor league Gold Glove winner, took several weeks to find his swing, and on the eve of his official demotion he was on the back fields appearing in minor league games to get extra at-bats. The righthanded hitter, a 2012 second-round pick out of high school in Portland, Ore., said his timing had been off but "coming around.”

Playing time has been prioritized for Kelly's development, not spectating on the St. Louis bench. Plus, he had some moments behind the plate that Matheny wanted to sharpen.

"He’s figuring out a few things at the plate,” Matheny said. "Behind the plate he has been working on a few things. He’s still trying to figure out the timing on blocking. There are just a lot of things he’s still trying to get figured out.”

Tyler O'neill

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• Righthander Alex Reyes has made steady progress during his recovery from Tommy John surgery and is eyeing a return to the majors around May 1. The Cardinals do not have a preconceived role for him—just a plan fro him to pitch about 100 innings and be available in September and possibly beyond.

• Outfielder Tyler O’Neill had his bid for a big league bench spot halted by a series of injuries that included an oblique strain and hamstring soreness. When healthy, he proved deft at all three outfield spots, and his power was obvious. He’ll start at Triple-A.

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