Molina to make spring training debut catching for Cardinals
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) There was no hesitation from Yadier Molina. The St. Louis Cardinals catcher stepped up and made the play.
Molina executed the maneuver that got him injured, a sweeping tag at the plate, saving a run in his spring training debut.
''I was ready, I wasn't thinking about anything,'' Molina said after playing three innings against the Miami Marlins on Wednesday. ''I just tried to get the guy and everything went right.''
Molina wore a splint to protect his surgically repaired thumb and played three innings, but did not bat after being listed ninth in the lineup. He was on deck when Jedd Gyorko was caught stealing to end the second but said he'd have gone to the plate with orders to just keep taking.
''Today was a good test and yeah, I feel good,'' Molina said. ''But we have to wait for tomorrow and see how I wake up and keep progressing.''
The seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove winner is coming off two thumb operations.
Molina injured his left thumb making a sweeping tag on the Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo on Sept. 20. He underwent operations in October and mid-December.
''Yadi did that play perfectly, and the slide wasn't a dirty slide,'' Matheny said. ''He just got himself in a compromising position.''
Tagging out Justin Bour attempting to score on a hit in the second was a similar situation. Molina made a quick tag and avoided contact with the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Bour.
''Great defense, and it was fun to watch a guy get thrown out at home,'' Cardinals starter Mike Leake said. ''At least for as big of a guy as he is, it was kind of a gingerly slide.''
Both manager Mike Matheny and Molina said this was the target date given by medical staff for the 33-year-old to play for the first time.
''If he's tentative, we wouldn't have him out there,'' Matheny said. ''He needs to just do what he does and not really be concerned.''
''I wasn't surprised,'' Molina said. ''I was working hard to get back on the field.''
Matheny said Molina has looked good swinging off a tee and with soft toss and might bat during a game in a week. Matheny said Molina's hand strength was close to its pre-injury level.
''I know he's just anxious,'' Matheny said. ''You kind of have to have that carrot out there for all of these guys to give them just a little bit more, and he's done all he needs to.''
St. Louis acquired free agent catcher Brayan Pena in the offseason. He is expected to play more than the previous backup, Tony Cruz.
Molina hit .270 with four homers and 61 RBIs last year. Pena played in 108 games for the Reds and batted .273 with 18 RBIs.
Matheny said wear and tear caused Molina to get hurt.
''That injury is due to thousands of innings caught,'' said Matheny, a former Gold Glove catcher. ''You take guys who've caught for a long time, it's volatile.''
Matt Holliday played first base for the second time this spring training and made a nice stretch to complete a double play. The first experience on Monday was uneventful.
''We've done everything you could possibly do in our workouts,'' Matheny said. ''It's the next level, just watching how he responds, watching what doesn't feel comfortable and what we need to work on some more.''
St. Louis has several first-base candidates in camp, Brandon Moss, Matt Adams and Stephen Piscotty. Holliday has only played left field throughout his big league career.
''It's been a conversation for a long time,'' Matheny said. ''The answer is the same. Just wait and see.''