MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Christian Kelley’s stats may not jump off the page, but the 25-year-old catcher seems to already be a veteran in the clubhouse when it comes to helping young pitchers find success.
While Kelley said he would like to get some more hits on the offensive side of things, he said he’s focused on doing things to help the team win. For him, that means crouching down behind the plate and helping whoever’s on the mound throw another gem.
“I think what helps is that I’ve played with most of these guys through the levels, so I know what works, what doesn’t, their strengths and weaknesses,” Kelley said. “I just match that up with the team we’re facing that night.”
Right-hander James Marvel, for instance, has credited both Kelley and catcher Steve Barron for making a seamless transition from Double-A Altoona to Triple-A Indianapolis this season. Kelley said Marvel is the perfect example of how the Tribe’s pitchers have approached things this season — calculated and intense.
Those relationships — between pitcher and catcher — just kind of come natural, Kelley said.
“It’s something you don't really force; it just comes with time,” he said. “A lot of these guys like to sit down and have meals together and hang out together. You learn a lot about guys that way, and you can take that into a mound visit with you. You really can see when things are going right and see what’s uncharacteristic for them.”
It’s unique, though, in the sense that Kelley works with numerous pitchers day in and day out and has to be on the same page, whereas a shortstop, for example, may focus on building relationships with the second basemen for a double-play situation.
Kelley, however, said it’s not hard to keep the personalities in check nor is it difficult to manage each pitcher’s game.
“There’s times where you get beat in certain situations and you take note of it and you try not to call the same pitch twice, that’s about it,” he said. “There’s times you’ve got to learn quick, but it’s my job to help guide these guys through things so they don't continue to fail.”
When someone like Marvel gets called up from Double-A, Kelley has to work with them quickly to get them acclimated to the next level. It starts with a conversation, he said.
“The first thing anybody does is when they move up is they have to get out of the frame of mind that everyone is better and that they have to change their game,” he said. “But in reality, you just have to reassure them that what got them there will work at this level, too.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Kelley must handle pitchers who make it to the MLB and then get sent back down or guys from the top level coming for rehab stints. Those become easy, though, he said.
“I haven’t really seen too much negativity. Most of those guys get back up,” he said. “I’ve seen more of a drive than anything. I think that helps most of them.”
In a perfect world, all of what Kelley does would lead to success. The Indians have found struggles this season — sometimes blowing late leads or not putting enough runs up on the scoreboard. Pitching has been middle-of-the-road despite some spectacular outings notched in the scorebook this season.
The Indians are fourth in the 14-team International League with a 4.76 ERA. On a bright note, the Tribe ranks second with 129 home runs allowed, third in hits allowed with 994 and they lead the league with 38 saves.
Mitch Keller and Alex McRae lead the staff with seven wins apiece while Marvel is the clubhouse leader among starters with a 1.87 ERA. Montana DuRapau leads the Tribe with nine saves while Jake Brentz and Dovydas NEverauskas each have eight. Keller is far above the pack with 123 strikeouts.
TRIBE'S TOP HITTERS
Here’s who I’ve identified as the Indians’ top hitters over the past week:
Jake Elmore, UTIL — 7 for 17 (.411) with three doubles
Jason Martin, OF — 9 for 21 (.428) with two doubles and four RBIs
TRIBE’S TOP PITCHERS
Top starting performance: Alex McRae pitched 5.0 innings and allowed just one run on seven hits while striking out three batters against Durham in his seventh win of the season.
Top reliever performance: Dovydas Neverauskas picked up a save after throwing 2.0 innings Saturday against Durham. He didn't surrender any runs while scattering three hits and striking out four. It was a nice bounce back after taking a loss in relief two days prior.
8/7: LHP Steven Brault ends MLB rehab with Indianapolis, reinstated from 10-day injured list by Pittsburgh (8/6).
OF Eric Wood reinstated from temporary inactive list (8/6).
8/9: RHP Yefry Ramirez optioned by Pittsburgh (8/6), active in Indianapolis.
RHP Dario Agrazal optioned by Pittsburgh (8/6), active in Indianapolis.
RHP Eduardo Vera released by Pittsburgh.
LHP Cam Vieaux transferred from Indianapolis to Double-A Altoona.
8/11: RHP Rookie Davis begins MLB rehab assignment with Indianapolis. He is wearing No. 32.
LHP Tyler Lyons released by Pittsburgh.
RHP Dario Agrazal is now wearing No. 22.
RHP Yefry Ramirez is now wearing No. 48.
The Indians went 2-4 over the past seven days, dropping two of three to both Norfolk and Durham. Indianapolis is now 58-60. The Tribe begins a seven-game home stand Tuesday, which includes a doubleheader in the midst of a four-game series with Lehigh Valley after a three-game tilt with Rochester.
INDY FUN THING
I'm a sucker for a feel-good story. Enjoy this one via the Indians website:
Big fan of Razor Shines? Yeah, we are, too.
— Indianapolis Indians (@indyindians) August 10, 2019
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