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Cardinals wrassle Cubs

Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina sits out the May 31 game against the Cubs because of a strained tendon in his thumb. (Post-Dispatch photo by Colter Peterson)

The timetable for the return of injured Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina still is uncertain, but a good guess would seem to be two to three weeks and not just the 10 days he is required to spend on the injured list.

“We’re going to obviously need the full 10 days, and some change after,” manager Mike Shildt said Saturday.

“I’m super hesitant to put a time line because everyone heals differently. It could be two or three weeks. Yeah, absolutely. It could be longer. And then it could potentially be shorter.

“One of the reasons about putting even a loose deadline is that you feel you’ve got to meet it. Now, we’re being a little more organic on what it looks like and take the temperature as we go.”

Molina said the hand specialist who examined his injured thumb area Friday evening did not find anything more substantial than a slight tear of the tendon in the web between the thumb and forefinger of Molina’s right hand.

The nine-time Gold Glover and All-Star first was hit on the outside of his hand by a pitched ball during the Kansas City series on May 22. The injury on the other side of his hand manifested itself a few days later as Molina tried to swing the bat but had to release it with just his left hand and with no follow-through from the right hand because of the pain.

“Who knows?” said Shildt. “The reality is that it’s happened.” Shildt then considered a theory that “when he got hit, he compensated with the adjustment with the grip (of his bat), and it put him in what turned out to be a compromised position.”

Molina missed seven weeks with a torn ligament in his thumb in 2014 but said this is different. “Nothing in the bone,” he said.

He said he still could throw the ball and catch it, but he wouldn’t have sufficient strength to swing the bat, as was demonstrated in the last couple of games before Molina went out of the lineup.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Molina said. “I’m good.”

MARTINEZ ADAPTS TO BULLPEN

Carlos Martinez, since being installed as a reliever here to continue to ease the stress of his right shoulder, has appeared on back-to-back nights on three occasions and said he was ready to go for a third night in succession on Saturday. Shildt summoned him early Sunday morning in a rain-delayed game, and Martinez earned the save with a 1-2-3 ninth as the Cardinals beat the Cubs 7-4.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Martinez said before the game. “If they put in me, it’s OK.”

Martinez, who still hopes to be a starter again before the season is over, said he was fine with the bullpen. “I like to play,” he said.

“If I got healthy and I’ve got power in my arm _ a strong arm _ I can play. I’m happy. I’m so happy because I’m always in the game.

“But, you know what? I want to be a starter.”

Asked when that might happen, Martinez smiled and said, “Soon.”

WONG PERFECT IN STEALS

Kolten Wong stole his eighth base in eight tries Friday night. He was thrown out five times in 11 steal attempts last year after swiping 15 of 17 in the two preceding seasons. He also stole a career high of 20 in 24 attempts as a rookie in 2014 and followed that with 15 thefts in 23 tries in 2015.

Wong said he felt better about this part of his game because he’s had more freedom this year.

“Getting the green light, you can pick your spots,” he said. “I’m trying to make sure that when I’m going, it’s the right time.”

He contends he didn’t have a constant “go” last year and “every time I got the green light, I was running.”

Shildt said, “Kolten’s seeing the game better. The preparation is good, and he understands what he’s looking for. We’d like him to stay perfect all year, but we (want him) making sure he’s got a really good chance to be safe.”

KNIZNER HAS A GOOD DRIVE

When catcher Andrew Knizner got the word at Memphis early Friday afternoon that he was coming to the majors to replace Molina on the roster, he hopped into his car, with his girlfriend driving her car right behind him, and got here as fast he could. How fast?

“I wasn’t speeding that bad,” Knizner said. “I was going a reasonable speed. I was under 80, I’ll give it to you that way.”

He spent most of his drive talking to his mother, other family members and former coaches. “It was one of the best drives I’ve ever had,” said the 24-year-old North Carolina State product.

Knizner pulled into the players’ parking lot at 6:35 p.m for a 7:15 game and, of course, had no pass. “They had the bomb-sniffing dogs circling my car,” he said, laughing.

Knizner had a drop of 77 in his spring training number of 84 to his current No. 7. “I don’t think I can go any lower than that,” he said. “Hopefully, I can live up to the expectation of a single-digit number.”

EVEN CUBS BOOED BRYANT

Joining the booing of Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant in the first inning Friday night were the Cubs themselves.

“It was hilarious,” Bryant told the Chicago Tribune afterward, blaming teammate Anthony Rizzo for the gambit.

“I don’t know if I can top that. It was impressive that he gathered everyone and even told the bullpen guys. All in good fun,” said Bryant.

Bryant said what he heard from the fans “wasn’t personal. It was just booing, and that’s what it should be about,” he said.

Bryant said his winter-time comments about St. Louis being “boring” weren’t referenced by the Cardinals’ players. “I like the guys over there,” Bryant said. “They’re good people.”

Molina, who had taken the most exception, was not on the field.

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