Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kelly, Kottaras Make Good Connection

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kelly, Kottaras Make Good Connection

Article excerpt

Pick you up after seven?

Seven dominant innings, that is.

Joe Kelly and George Kottaras spent most of Saturday afternoon in sync, at times the perfect pitcher-catcher couple.

But it was really the first time they had ever hooked up. Ever.

Kottaras, making his first start since being acquired on July 11, and Kelly, who was activated that day from the disabled list, had never even played as much as catch before Saturday's warm-up.

"It was the first time he's ever seen the ball come out of my hand, and the first time I ever saw him behind the plate," Kelly said. "It was like a first date."

Kelly needed just 99 pitches to navigate seven innings and finished with a flurry, retiring the last 13 batters he faced on his way to his second win. Kottaras was there to help him escape jams in the first and second innings, corral two of three severely spiked curves in the dirt, and frame one of Kelly's four strikeouts that came looking.

Amid all the worry about how the pitching staff would react to losing its rock, Yadier Molina, maybe for the rest of the season, Kelly and Kottaras proved that sometimes, even basic strangers can just click.

"We were rolling pretty well," Kottaras said. "I'm putting down signs. I'm the guide. If he doesn't feel it, we go in a different direction. We just talk about it. It's not a pride thing to shake off or to not throw whatever pitch. Our job is to get guys out. If he feels a certain pitch is going to get a guy out, then we're going to throw it. He didn't shake much today."

Kottaras is no stranger to making new friends on the mound. The Cardinals are his sixth club in seven seasons, "fortunately or unfortunately," as he put it, making each new job an exercise in rapid familiarity.

He acknowledged similarities in his job to that of a reporter. To get familiar with a staff full of new pitchers, Kottaras needed to observe, to learn quickly and, most importantly, to be inquisitive.

"It's mainly asking a lot of questions," he said. "Just ask questions, no matter what. If it sounds dumb or whatever, just do it for yourself."

"Lots of dialogue," Kelly agreed. "We were definitely on the right page. He played really well today. …

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