Yadier Molina returning to the Cardinals in August
ST. LOUIS — Uncertain for weeks about when Yadier Molina would return from his native Puerto Rico to nurse his inflamed right knee and get a mental refresh, the Cardinals finally have some clarity on their veteran receiver’s immediate future.
Manager Oliver Marmol said Molina will report to an unspecified rehab assignment the last week of July with plans to return to St. Louis as a full-time receiver by early August. President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak spoke with Molina, 39, on Tuesday and discussed a plan for the catcher’s return to the team he played for 19 seasons.
“It’s encouraging because most people didn’t understand where and when we might see Yadi again,” Mozeliak said. “At least now we have a framework of what it looks like, and everyone [on the Cardinals] was excited to hear that. All in all, I see it as an overall state, and the fact that he is considering a return to the game, it’s really encouraging.
Mozeliak said a site for Molina’s rehab had been agreed upon, but he would not give details until the report date. Marmol said he didn’t know if Molina would join the team anytime before he went to rehab. Triple-A Memphis or Jupiter, Florida, where the team’s spring training headquarters are located, are two primary options for Molina to go on his rehab mission.
“I had checked in with him regularly and we had discussed a plan last week. And considering all the questions asked, I contacted him [Tuesday] just to let him know that I think we should go public,” Mozeliak said of the comeback plan for Molina, who took to Instagram to post a photo of himself in a Cardinals uniform on Tuesday. “We both agreed and let everyone know what our intentions were. Hopefully we can now stick to the schedule and get him back to our club in early August.
“Obviously we won’t be activating it tomorrow, so there’s still time,” Mozeliak said. “But he’s encouraged by where he’s at to the point that we think we can share that.”
Molina, who turns 40 on Wednesday, entered the 10-day injured list on June 17, retroactive to June 16, and has since missed 24 games. Mozeliak said last week that he had come up with a plan that would see the veteran receiver recover from his inflamed right knee near his home in Puerto Rico. At the time of his departure, no specific timetable had been set for the return of Molina, who has been hampered all season by swelling, stiffness and pain in his right knee.
Marmol said the time spent has done wonders for the veteran receiver, and he’s confident Molina will be refreshed and healthy when he returns. It also helps, Marmol said, to have a set timeline for when St. Louis can expect its veteran receiver to return to the fold.
“Now that we have a plan together and understand what the schedule looks like, I’m really excited to see it again,” Marmol said Tuesday before the Cardinals hosted the Dodgers. “He is doing very well and he feels much better. Mentally and physically he’s looking to come back, so that’s positive.
Molina, who announced this will be his final season in MLB, was batting .213 with two home runs and 10 RBIs in 136 at-bats in 40 games when he left the team.
Molina teamed with veteran pitcher Adam Wainwright to become the winningest starting battery in MLB history earlier this season when they notched their 203rd victory in their combined starts. Molina and Wainwright are tied for second in most career starts with Warrant Spahn and Del Crandall with 316 starts. They hope to pass Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan for most career starts by a battery at 324.
Molina missed the first week of spring training due to a personal issue, reported issues with knee pain and general soreness throughout the early stages of spring training and the regular season, and was placed on a squad plan with reserve receiver Andrew Knizner.
St. Louis has gotten little production from his catching position this season as Molina (.213 batting average) and Knizner (.181 in 54 games) have struggled at the plate. The Cardinals briefly promoted No. 3 prospect Ivan Herrera (.111 in 11 games) and signed veteran Austin Romine (.133 in five games), but the results were spotty at best.