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Cardinals notebook: Molina's managing career to begin on Oct. 22 — unless he's still playing

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Cincinnati Reds vs St. Louis Cardinals

Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina walks off the field after making the tag at home for the out to end the top of the ninth inning, on throw from center by Lars Nootbaar, in a game against Cincinnati on Sept. 18, 2022, at Busch Stadium. 

In today’s 10 a.m. video, columnist Ben Hochman discusses Albert Pujols as the Cardinals head west. Plus, a happy birthday shoutout to actor Kevin Zegers from “Air Bud.” And, as always, Hochman picks a random St. Louis Cards card from the hat. Ten Hochman is presented by Window Nation!

On Oct. 22, Yadier Molina, already a pro basketball team owner in Puerto Rico, will begin his professional managing career in Venezuela. Or maybe not.

Molina would prefer to be catching in the National League Championship Series at that point, and if so, former big-league catcher Ramon Hernandez will take over the Magallanes club.

But ultimately, Molina will be doing something he had little inclination to do several years ago. It was thought then that it would be a problem for Molina to have to deal with media before and after games. But at the time, Molina playfully had jabbed a reporter in the chest and said, “No, that would be a problem for YOU.’’

But Molina has adjusted his stance on managing now as his estimable career soon comes to an end.

“Do you have a problem with that?” he asked pleasantly.

He said he was going to try it “because I really want it.”

Not only will he manage in winter ball, but he appears to be on the short list to manage the Puerto Rican team for which he has played in four World Baseball Classics at the next tournament, which will be held in Miami next March. Puerto Rico finished second to the United States in the 2017 tournament.

Pitching was in fairly short supply then for Puerto Rico, but Molina said, “I think we’re better than in 2017. Every Classic we’re getting better and better.”

Molina has batted .300 in 20 WBC games for Puerto Rico.

“But I’m not playing,” he said. “Enough baseball for me. I don’t see me playing baseball after the World Series.”

Asked what intrigued him about managing, the 40-year-old Molina admitted, “Let’s find out. Truthfully, I don’t know. I need to find out if I can do it or not. See if I like it or not. That’s why I’m doing it now.”

Molina will be taking over a Magallanes team that was the Venezuelan champion this past winter.

“I heard it’s pretty good over there. Good competition,” Molina said. “I’m excited to go over there and see it.”

Venezuela long has been a rival of Puerto Rico but Molina said he didn’t see any problems with managing a team in that nation now.

“I want to bring my baseball (knowledge) to the young guys in Venezuela and try to help them, at the same time they’re helping me,” he said.

Matz gets firsthand look at extra innings

As a starter, left-hander Steven Matz didn’t see extra innings very often. But in his first relief outing for the Cardinals on Saturday night, he came in from the bullpen for the 11th and there already was an automatic runner on second base.

“You’ve got to have a different approach,” he said. “You’re not feeling stuff out. You’ve got make pitches right away.”

That runner moved to third base on a fly ball, but Matz struck out former Cardinals catcher Austin Romine and got Jonathan India to ground out.

“That strikeout was huge,” he said.

Matz quickly gained his first relief win as the Cardinals scored in the bottom of the 11th.

“It was fun to contribute. It’s been a while since I contributed,” said Matz, who suffered a torn ligament in his left knee on July 23 in his first game back off the injured list following his stint there for shoulder problems.

“It will be good to finish the season feeling good and, hopefully, get some playoff experience,” he said. “We’ll get a nice, little preview on this trip” that starts Tuesday in San Diego.

In facing the left-handed likes of San Diego’s Juan Soto, Los Angeles’ Freddie Freeman and Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich, Matz will be opposing players he faced with the New York Mets while those players were division rivals with Washington (Soto), Atlanta (Freeman) and Miami (Yelich).

“Those were NL East guys, so I’ve got a lot of experience with them,” Matz said.

Soto is eight for 16 (.500) with a home run against Matz. Freeman is 10 for 33 (.300) with a homer, and Yelich is 5 for 18 (.278).

Pujols, Molina reach more milestones

Albert Pujols made his 13,000th plate appearance in the first inning Sunday, becoming one of six players to have reached that figure.

Molina surpassed Hall of Famer and fellow Puerto Rican Ivan Rodriguez at 16,238 for most total chances by a catcher in major league history. 

Brendan Donovan, with a walk, reached safely in all 16 games he played against the Reds this season.

Nootbaar shows off arm

Reliever Chris Stratton inherited a second-and-third, one-out spot in the Reds' ninth.

But Cardinals center fielder Lars Nootbaar quickly took care of that, catching Jonathan India's medium-depth fly ball and throwing out Mark Reynolds at the plate.

The assist was Nootbaar’s eighth, tying Dylan Carlson for the team lead, ranking both tied for fifth in the National League

Cards match season low for hits

The two hits the Cardinals had in their loss tied a season low. They had done it three other times this season.

• The bunt single Saturday by rookie Alec Burleson against Cincinnati’s Hunter Greene was his first since college at East Carolina, he said. Greene had been dominant and Burleson said, “You take whatever you can get.”

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Rick Hummel is a Cardinals beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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