The concussion to Jason LaRue from a Johnny Cueto kick unfairly ended the long-time backstop's career.
In that unfortunate circumstance, however, someone has to rise up to replace LaRue as Yadier Molina's backup catcher for the future, and 27-year-old Matt Pagnozzi is hoping he is that guy.
"It would be nice to think about it but honestly my focus is the task at hand," Pagnozzi told FOX Sports Midwest . Pagnozzi is in the midst of all the playing time he can handle, as Molina has been shut down for the season, leaving him and Bryan Anderson to pick up the slack. "I just want to play as well as I can and let the guys upstairs make those decisions."
Pagnozzi's career mark in the minors, including four seasons at Triple-A, is a pathetic .214/.292/.294 line. Sterling defensive reputation or not, you simply have to hit better than that to make the majors, and fortunately for Pagnozzi, he has hitting coach Mark McGwire by his side to help.
"[McGwire] first introduction to him was this spring and the way he went about his work and his basic stroke, he said ‘this guy can be a tough out’,” said manager Tony La Russa. "And so far since he’s come back to us and got some playing time, his hits have been big hits, like [Sunday] and again [Monday]. We probably don’t win either game without his contribution offensively."
Pagnozzi had three hits on Monday in a defeat of the Pirates and is six-for-12 in his last three starts, with the team winning five of his six starts. This caps off his best minor-league offensive season yet, posting a .242/.338/.308 line in 242 plate appearances for Triple-A. Dominating? No. Good enough to be a backup? Probably, especially if McGwire's tutelage continues to pay dividends.
"Offensively, it’s been a work in progress for me throughout my career," Pagnozzi said. "I think the more I play, the more I learn about myself and what I can do. I think that’s been a big help."
-- Evan Brunell
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