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In the Cougars' Den: Krist proving preseason prestige

Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013 5:32 a.m. CDT

(Continued from Page 1)

Chadd Krist earned preseason prestige for his work behind the plate, as Baseball America called him as the second-best defensive catcher in the Cubs’ organization.

Scouts must have been burying that sterling scouting report on Krist’s bat. Entering tonight’s series opener against visiting Quad Cities, the platooning backstop leads the Cougars with a .412 average in 17 at-bats.

Krist would like to think he knows what’s coming when he steps into the box. Truth is, he might feel so steeled in his skill in calling games that his head feels clearer than normal when he’s hitting.

“I’m just going to the plate just looking to get a good pitch to drive,” Krist said. “I’m getting a lot of good pitches to hit right now. That’s not always the case, but right now, things just seem to be going my way, so I’ll ride that as long as I can.”

That task figures to be tougher considering the Cougars began the season with three catchers. Willson Contreras – the player ranked ahead of Krist on Baseball America’s defensive proficiency list – has played in seven games to Krist’s five. Yaniel Cabezas, who broke spring training with the Cougars, is on the disabled list.

On the surface, Krist enjoys an inherent advantage. The organization converted Contreras from third base to catcher before the 2012 season, while Krist has been catching throughout his career.

The Cubs drafted him in the ninth round of the 2012 draft out of Cal, where Krist set a school record with 65 career doubles and flirted with a .400 average with runners in scoring position in 2011.

Keeping such success on par with his defense remains the goal, and the organization is encouraged.

“He’s got that little bit of leadership quality in him that you want to see in a catcher,” said Cougars manager Mark Johnson, a former major league catcher who debuted with the White Sox in 1998. “You know, he’s a headsy kind of guy. He knows what’s going on back there.”

Contreras caught 64 games with Short-A Boise last season, and is one of 19 Cougars to appear at that level in 2012. Krist also counts among that number, although he spent just 16 games in the Northwest League.

After batting .328 to begin his time in Boise, Krist ascended to then-Midwest League affiliate Peoria. A 40-game stint with the Chiefs provided a good base, but still left Krist less comfortable with the current Cougars pitching staff.

He worked to catch up in spring training.

“Catching a lot of bullpens, working with them in the pen and before the game and a lot of early work,” Krist said. “A lot of communication between the pitchers and catchers.”

Krist called that strategy “pretty universal.” If his April success at the plate transfers just as smoothly, he’ll take it.

Who’s hot
Right fielder Bijan Rademacher started the season 0 for 9, but is batting .563 (9 for 16) since. He has at least one hit in five straight starts.

Who’s not
Second baseman Gioskar Amaya has three hits in his past 19 at-bats. He has walked just twice in 45 at-bats this season.

Star watch
Peoria reliever Michael Aldrete – the son of Mike Aldrete, bench coach of the parent St. Louis Cardinals – enters today with seven strikeouts in eight innings over four relief appearances. The Chiefs, a former Cubs affiliate, visit Fifth Third Bank Ballpark for three games beginning Sunday.

Noteworthy
The first of the Cougars' three "Meet the Team" postgame parties is scheduled for 30 minutes after the conclusion of Saturday's 1 p.m. game against Quad Cities. "Meet the Team" tickets cost $25 and are available online at kccougars.com or by calling 630-232-8811. ... West Michigan right fielder Jeff Holm, a St. Charles North product, was batting .414 in nine games before landing on the 7-day disabled list with a sprained ankle Tuesday. The Cougars are set to visit West Michigan from July 13-15. ... After this weekend, Quad Cities returns to Fifth Third Bank Ballpark for a rare five-game series from July 4-8.

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