Molina catches 5 innings, fans looking in Cardinals win
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) Yadier Molina caught five innings and took three called strikes in his lone at-bat for the St. Louis Cardinals in a 4-3 victory over an Atlanta Braves split squad on Friday.
Braves starter Jhoulys Chacin, who allowed three hits in three scoreless innings, had been unaware Molina wouldn't be putting up a fight.
''I know he hasn't been playing so I thought he might take a couple pitches,'' Chacin said. ''They were fastballs right down the middle.''
Molina caught three innings but did not hit in his spring debut on Wednesday coming off thumb surgery. He hit using a machine earlier in the day but doesn't expect to bat in a game for another week to 10 days, and joked that if he'd taken a cut, ''I'd be in trouble.''
Molina said it's important to get a good amount of playing time before the season begins. He won't apologize for scaring fans when he made a sweeping tag at the plate on Wednesday.
''It's not the same to be training and to be in the games,'' Molina said. ''You've got to be in game shape. It's so important to know the pitchers. I want to be back there.''
The Cardinals stole six bases in seven attempts, including a double steal that led to a run. They lead the majors with 19 steals in 24 attempts, most of them by prospects.
''Yeah, running Redbirds,'' manager Mike Matheny said with a smile. ''Let's keep close track of who's doing all that. Just about every spring we bring in all these young blazers.''
Carlos Martinez gave up a run in two innings in his first spring start for St. Louis.
Reid Brignac hit a pinch two-run homer and Blake Lalli had two hits and an RBI for the Braves.
Braves: Chacin has a minor league deal coming off labrum woes and is among perhaps a half-dozen pitchers vying for two rotation spots. He hasn't allowed a run in five innings.
Chacin was a 14-game winner for Colorado in 2013 but totaled three wins the last two seasons.
''I really don't care who the other guys are, I care how I perform,'' Chacin said. ''I feel healthy and I can have fun playing again.''
Cardinals: Martinez has top-of-the-rotation stuff, but the team must monitor his volatile emotions.
''Sometimes you have to watch him, you have to pay attention to every detail, every start,'' Molina said. ''But I'll take him every time.''
Braves: RHP Jason Grilli (Achilles) threw a 20-pitch simulated game and RHP Mike Foltynewicz (rib surgery) threw a 40-pitch sim.
Braves: No Saturday starter has been announced.
Cardinals: Ace Adam Wainwright and lefty Tyler Lyons get starts in split-squad games, Wainwright facing the Astros at home and Lyons pitching against the Mets in Port St. Lucie.
TAKE A HIT
Cardinals cleanup man Matt Adams, who has said he didn't pay attention to shifts, beat the Braves with a bunt down the third-base line for a hit in the first.
''I know he told you all he was going to stop trying to bunt and that's just a bad play,'' Matheny said. ''If they're going to give you a base hit, take it.''
Braves: CF Ender Inciarte made a diving catch to rob Aledmys Diaz of a hit in the first.
Cardinals: Prospect Magneuris Sierra turned a double play in CF in the fourth, making a running catch and then throwing out a runner trying for third, and also had the go-ahead hit in the eighth.