Yadier Molina plays with more injuries than most players. But the Cardinals’ nine-time Gold Glove award-winning catcher and nine-time All-Star hasn’t been able to function properly with his injured right thumb lately, and has been placed on the 10-day injured list. Andrew Knizner, the Cardinals’ top catching prospect, has been promoted from Memphis to replace Molina.
Molina has a tendon strain, it was revealed in an MRI taken Friday morning.
Molina, 36, was hurt last week and is hitting .265 with 33 runs batted in over 50 games. Knizner, 24, was hitting .286 with five homers and 17 RBIs at Class AAA Memphis and has a career minor-league average of .307. He has thrown out 17 of 32 would-be base stealers to lead the Pacific Coast League this year.
Knizner, who was not here for batting practice Friday but was en route from Memphis, will wear No. 7. He will back up veteran switch-hitter Matt Wieters, who had homered in each of the previous two games as Molina’s replacement and was averaging .387 overall. He started Friday, against the Cubs. Knizner’s addition to the 40-man roster puts the Cardinals at exactly 40.
Molina, who was hit on the hand in the last home stand, aggravated the injury while batting Sunday night. He basically swung one-handed the rest of the way, even singling in the 10th inning. On Tuesday, he was nothing for two before being pinch-hit for in what would have been his final at-bat.
It seems Molina will be out for more than 10 days but the Cardinals weren’t prepared to speculate on that, pending further examination by a hand specialist later in the day.
Manager Mike Shildt, calling the ailment a “little unprecedented” from a medical standpoint, said, “He’s got a slight tear . . . between his thumb and forefinger.
“After the imaging today, it was not something that was going to heal without some time and more care. Clearly, there was something else that was a little more invasive and showed up differently.
“No timetable yet. For a mortal person, it’s going to be ‘X’ number of time. For Yadi, I’m sure it’s going to be somewhat different. It didn’t affect him catching or throwing. It just affected him swinging the bat.”
In 2014, Molina was out for seven weeks because of a torn ligament in his right thumb, although this injury at least appears to be slightly different.
John Mozeliak, the Cardinals’ president of baseball operations, said surgery had not been discussed.
“My concern (about surgery) would be very low,” he said.
Wieters, who turned 33 last week, was signed a couple of weeks into spring training and had hit safely in all six of his starts before Friday and was 10 for 21.
“What Matt has been able to provide for us when he’s played has been impressive,” Mozeliak said.
Added Shildt: “It’s been a luxury to have two guys with 10-years (plus) major-league time as your catchers. (Wieters) is a four-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glover and he’s played on multiple winning teams.”
Wieters had 965 big-league hits and 138 homers entering Friday, so playing regularly is nothing unusual for him.
“I’ve been doing the (backup) role for two months and I’ve been doing the other role for most of my career,” he said.
LEADING OFF, CARPENTER
Matt Carpenter, who was moved out of the leadoff spot last Friday, was back in it this Friday. In the six games Carpenter hit elsewhere or did not start, the leadoff men were nothing for 23 with no walks. Dexter Fowler batted first in five games and Kolten Wong the other one. Fowler was hit by pitches in the leg or foot on three occasions, representing the only times the No. 1 hitter reached base in a game in that span.
“That (nothing for 23) had something to do with it,” Shildt said. “And the other guy (Carpenter) kind of took off like we felt he would.”
In those six games, Carpenter was seven for 20 with two homers and two walks. Then he drew a walk Friday to open the home half of the first inning and scored.
“He’s back to a spot that has worked for him and us,” Shildt said.
CABRERA AGAIN TUESDAY
Lefthander Genesis Cabrera, who allowed five runs (three earned) in 3 2/3 innings in his big-league debut on Tuesday, is slated to start again next Tuesday — against Cincinnati at Busch Stadium.
“I’m not saying we won’t make an adjustment but that’s the plan, as of now,” Shildt said.
Mozeliak added: “His ability to start is exciting.”
So far, the rotation for the Reds’ series would be Cabrera, Dakota Hudson and Miles Mikolas, who pitched Friday against the Cubs.
The Cardinals entered the final day of May with an 8-18 mark for the month and Mozeliak said, “It’s been a tough month and it’s hard . . . to say exactly what went wrong.
“If you look at the inability to consistently score runs, it’s been a little bit of a head-scratcher,” he said. “We do hit the ball hard.”
Mozeliak said that righthander Alex Reyes, who had been at Class A Palm Beach after recovering from a broken left pinky finger, likely will make his next start at Memphis.
“He still is not cleared 100 percent to swing the bat,” Mozeliak said.
Second baseman Kolten Wong was down to .216 entering the game Friday and was on a nothing-for-21 slide. Worse, he had only one walk in that time although he reached base two other times on dropped fly balls by Atlanta left fielder Austin Riley.