Brewers C Jason Kendall has long line of backstops to draw experience from Print
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Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:05
MLB Headline News

 PHOENIX (AP) -Brewers manager Ned Yost says he finally has the catcher he's been looking for in Jason Kendall.
It's a lofty statement for the sixth-year manager.
After all, he was a catcher, as was his bench coach, eight-time All-Star Ted Simmons.
``I am particularly picky because I know what I want,'' Yost said. ``I want somebody who is defensive minded and defensive oriented.''
Those attributes are what Yost thrived on in his limited role over six playing seasons, and Kendall, once the cornerstone of the Pirates franchise and son of catcher Fred Kendall, expects the same attitude will allow him to thrive in Milwaukee after playing last year with the Athletics and Cubs.
``It took me a while to figure out the little things as far as calling the game. Not to say that I know everything, because I don't, but I'm going to have a pretty decent idea,'' Kendall said. ``These guys are good. The last thing you want them to do is go out there and have to think every pitch 'Do this, do that.'''
Said reliever Derrick Turnbow: ``He's here for the pitchers, there's no question about it. That's his whole game is to help the pitchers out.''
No matter who starts the regular season as catcher, it'll mark the seventh different opening day starter since Miller Park opened in 2001 to go along with Johnny Estrada, Damian Miller, Chad Moeller (twice), Eddie Perez, Raul Casanova and Henry Blanco.
Estrada, last year's starter, was an offensive asset with 10 homers, 54 RBIs and a .278 average. Kendall, a 12-year veteran, likely won't produce those type of numbers, but Yost believes he'll be the right man to lead the talented starting rotation that includes Ben Sheets, Yovani Gallardo, Jeff Suppan and any two of five other candidates for the fourth and fifth roles.
``There's a huge difference between calling a game to each individual person's strengths and weaknesses compared to a philosophy. To Johnny's credit, Johnny last year called to a philosophy and it was a philosophy he thought a lot about and he worked on it and he's seen success with it,'' Yost said. ``But the problem is not everybody fits in that one slot there. Some do and some don't, and when they don't, it gets frustrating and they can't do it.''
In steps Kendall, a career .297 hitter who swooned last season between Oakland and Chicago, managing a .242 batting average with three homers and 41 RBIs. He signed a one-year contract worth $4.25 million with a vesting option for 2009 after finishing a six-year, $60 million extension he signed in Pittsburgh.
``I'm glad last year's over with. It's a new year and I'm going to go out and do what I'm capable of doing. I know what I'm capable of doing. I'm not going to hit homers,'' Kendall said. ``I had a bad year, there's no ifs ands or buts about it.''
General manager Doug Melvin said that previous catchers haven't always meshed well with a staff that relies primarily on location instead of power to get outs.
``They're not a high strikeout pitching staff that's going to rely on stuff, they're going to rely on location, game management, how to get hitters out, the advanced scouting reports and that's going to come with an experienced guy that will almost act like another pitching coach,'' Melvin said. ``That experience is what we're relying on him for.''
The 33-year-old Kendall has ties to the Brewers front office, too. He was scouted originally by Jack Zduriencik and drafted by Simmons, then Pittsburgh's general manager. Zduriencik is the Brewers' director of scouting now while Simmons is adjusting to his new role.
Yost told Kendall that working with Simmons would be a boon to his career.
``You're going to learn more this year than you probably learned in the last six years, but you better start expanding your thinking and you better start thinking outside the box,'' Yost recalled of his conversation with Kendall.
Kendall is already impressed.
``You run across some great minds, and Ted is definitely one of those,'' Kendall said. ``(He's) a guy that caught in the bigs for a long, long time, been there, done that and seen both sides of it.''
Now Kendall, a three-time All-Star himself who went to the postseason the last two years, will be asked to lead another pitching staff.
``I'd love to stay here as long as they want me. This team is going to be good for a long time and I'm to the point of my career where I want to win,'' Kendall said. ``I have the opportunity. This is not just going to be a team that's going to be good this year. It's going to get better and better every year, you've got a lot of young guys that are going to be here for a long time. I want to win with them.''
And Yost has his man. Maybe.
``He's what I'm looking for ... I think,'' he said. ``All signs point to it.''
 

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