Cardinals: Why Andrew Knizner is getting playing time over Yadier Molina

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Alex Reyes #29 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates with Andrew Knizner #7 after the final out in a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates during the game at PNC Park on May 2, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
Alex Reyes #29 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates with Andrew Knizner #7 after the final out in a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates during the game at PNC Park on May 2, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /
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St Louis Cardinals catcher Andrew Knizner has been seeing playing time of late over Yadier Molina. Why? Will it continue?

There has been increased frustration among St. Louis Cardinals fans over the decline in Yadier Molina’s performance. His pitch framing ability has declined. His offensive numbers are trending down. Yet he remains a franchise icon, a pillar in the locker room and still an important player for the franchise in every facet.

But Molina’s backup, Andrew Knizner, has started three games in the last week — and that could be the start of a new trend, according to Jeff Jones of the Belleville News.

This is not a case of the Cardinals starting the process of moving on from Molina. Not after both sides have said they expect to start negotiations about a contract for Molina, 38, when it’s set to expire at the end of the season. The odds are strongly in favor of the Cardinals bringing him back as he approaches two decades in the organization.

Instead, it’s simply the case of the Cardinals seeing what they have in Knizner and how he looks in extended playing time. The 26-year-old has been with the Cardinals for three seasons, hitting no more than .250 in each season, and slashing an underwhelming .190/.315/.276 with one home run and five RBI in 105 at-bats.

Knizner has shown flashes, however, and is likely to see his numbers improve as he gets more consistent playing time. On April 30, he was slashing .303/.378/.394. It looked like Molina and Knizner would form one of the best catching duos in baseball, though Knizner’s numbers fell off a cliff and have not recovered.

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Besides, giving Molina a breather will only help him in the long run as it keeps (some) miles off his legs that have been tasked with helping control a Cardinals pitching staff for almost 20 years. But his decrease in playing time isn’t about his downward trajectory in performance. It’s to evaluate Knizner and to see if the organization needs to explore upgrades in the offseason.

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