On Friday, the Cardinals bid farewell to a few familiar faces. Dakota Hudson, Jake Woodford, Juan Yepez, and Andrew Knizner were all non-tendered by the Cardinals, becoming free agents in the process.
The one that shocked me the most was Knizner. I was really impressed with the steps he took this year. He became a much better hitter and also continued to handle the pitching staff very well.
And so, I’m sad to see him go, especially when it would have made a million times more sense for the Cardinals to have non-tendered O’Neill and used Ivan Herrera in a trade for an ace.
But we don’t get to make these decisions, unfortunately. And now, Knizner will go play elsewhere. But I thought I’d just write a quick appreciation post for the Cards former backup catcher.
He came up to the big leagues in 2019 and made his debut on June 2, a game in which Adam Wainwright tossed eight shutout innings against the Cubs. Knizner got the start behind the plate with Yadier Molina on the injured list.
Some other great moments include his first big-league home run on July 24 of that year, and his two-hit game off the bench earlier this year against the Brewers, which included a grand slam in the same inning as his previous hit.
What impressed me a lot about Knizner was his ability to work with Wainwright, and other pitchers for that matter. But it’s clear that he took Molina’s advice to heart and ultimately became a much better ballplayer and catcher as a result.
The job of a backup catcher is hard. You have to always be ready in case something happens, but in Knizner’s case, he was never going to get a whole lot of opportunities with Molina behind the plate.
Even after Molina’s retirement, Willson Contreras was the starting catcher.
But Knizner certainly earned his opportunities towards the end of his Cardinals tenure, and I was really happy to see him get more starts, especially in the middle of the fiasco early in the season when Contreras was converted to a DH.
It’s hard to remain positive when you aren’t going a bunch of opportunities, let alone find that extra motivation to stay prepared. But Knizner did just that. He remained positive, always had a smile on his face, was popular in the clubhouse, and always stayed ready no matter the circumstances.
It was definitely an uphill battle at times. He didn’t click right away, but he evolved as a player. And whenever his number was called, he rose to the occasion. He had some power and a little bit of clutch in him as well.
I wish this wasn’t the end, but the reality is that he’ll likely get more opportunities elsewhere. I sure enjoyed watching Knizner. He may not have been a household name, but he was well liked and will be missed.
Consider this my farewell post to Knizner, in the hope that he’ll continue to grow as a player wherever his next opportunity may be.