Cardinals Manager Oliver Marmol Says Defense Is Key for Catcher Ivan Herrera

Getty Images St. Louis Cardinals catcher Ivan Herrera

When St. Louis Cardinals catcher Willson Contreras went down with an injury earlier this week, manager Oliver Marmol didn’t have much debate about his immediate solution. He’s counting on 23-year-old Ivan Herrera to step up in the starting role until Contreras’ return.

Contreras exited the Cardinals’ 7-5 loss to the New York Mets on May 7 with a fractured forearm after being hit by a J.D. Martinez swing. That leaves Herrera to fill the void.

Herrera, who has three home runs and 11 RBI in just 69 at-bats this year, has filled in adequately for the Redbirds thus far. Now, he’ll be asked to take the place of a former three-time All-Star. The young backstop is more than adequate at the plate, but it’s his work behind the dish that the team may have some concerns about.

On the season, Herrera has not thrown out a single base stealer in 17 attempts, prompting some to wonder how much that will affect the struggling Cardinals in Contreras’ absence.

Can Ivan Herrera Fill the Bill Defensively?

Despite his lack of early success, Marmol believes that Herrera will fare better as he gets more time behind the plate. The Redbird manager insists that certain exercises and techniques could help the youngster improve his throwing.

“There’s arm-strengthening stuff, as far as just being able to get on a long-toss program and actually gain something there,” Marmol said according to Benjamin Hochman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “But his footwork, exchange, and being able to consistently throw and give himself the best shot on the right side of the bag is what he’s working on. A lot of his misses are on that side. And that’s something that’s technical — you can improve that.”

“I’ve actually seen the most growth in his preparation,” Marmol said. “He receives well, he’s continuing to work on his blocking and throwing, but the biggest improvement has been in how he’s preparing for the game. And that’s allowed him to slow the game down while he’s calling it and kind of navigating a lineup and working with the pitcher.”

What Oliver Marmol & the Cardinals Expect

While St. Louis doesn’t expect Herrera to be a dazzling defensive star overnight, Marnol says that it’s imperative that he isn’t a liability at catcher, either.

“It’s very important,” the Redbird skipper stated. “I mean – depending on who you’re playing – there are some teams that run a lot more than others, and you have to defend against that no different than when you make a defensive replacement in center field.”


“If you have a catcher whose strength is that — and while you’re carrying three catchers, it’s easier to do, because you still have protection — you defend against it. And we were in a part of a lineup where I felt like (our opponent’s) way of getting back into this game would be by taking the 90 feet. So we made the move and kept that from potentially happening.”

The Cardinals began the year 15-21 through their 36 games and in last place in the National League Central. Dealing with a multitude of injuries, Marmol will look to get the most out of Herrera he can in the six to eight weeks until Contreras returns to the lineup.