With recently retired Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina slated to manage Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic this upcoming spring, the start to the longtime backstop’s professional managing career has led him and his current ball club to a place he became familiar with as a player in St. Louis.
In Molina’s professional managerial debut in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League, his club, los Navegantes del Magallanes, clinched a postseason spot Tuesday night following their 5-2 win over los Tiburones de La Guaira.
“I feel happy and proud of the team,” Molina said in a Spanish interview posted on the team’s Twitter account. “We had highs and lows all year. Illnesses and injuries. The team that deserves to be in the postseason is us for everything that has happened to us and because the guys have battled.”
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The first phase of the Venezuelan league's postseason will have five teams play in a round robin tournament. The top two teams following round robin play will advance to the finals. Molina's team is seeking back-to-back titles.
The first go-around as a manager for los Navegantes has also come with its share of ejections for Molina. On Nov. 27, Molina was fined $300 and suspended two games after being involved in a brawl during a Nov. 19 game, according to a league press release. The Nov. 19 ejection was Molina's third straight in as many games and his fourth of the season, according to a report from Primera Hora, a Spanish-language newspaper based in Puerto Rico.
Molina isn’t the only current member of los Navegantes with Cardinals ties.
Oufielder Moises Gomez, the Cardinals’ co-minor league player of the year and a Venezuelan native who played for Magellanes a season ago, was added to Molina’s team after he spent November playing in the Puerto Rican Winter League.
Molina has been able to call on right-handed reliever Wilking Rodriguez out of his bullpen. Rodriguez was added to St. Louis’s active roster after the Cardinals took the hard-throwing righty in the Rule 5 draft during Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings earlier this month.
The Venezuelan Winter League postseason play begins in January. Molina’s first game as manager for Team Puerto Rico will be an exhibition game against Boston on March 8. Team Puerto Rico’s first WBC game is scheduled for March 11 against Team Nicaragua.