SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Yadier Molina still hopes to contribute in some capacity during the NL Championship Series, if his sore side allows it.
And the St. Louis Cardinals aren’t ready to rule him out, either. For now, they’re keeping their catcher and leader on the active roster despite a strained left oblique muscle sustained in Game 2 of the NLCS.
Molina flew on the team charter to the Bay Area on Sunday night after leaving Busch Stadium for an MRI. Once the team arrived at AT&T Park on Monday, Molina met with team doctors and medical staff in the training room of the visitors’ clubhouse.
Molina played catch and surprised himself, the coaches and trainers.
“A little better than what I expected,” Molina said afterward. “When I woke up, I was moving all right. We’ll see. I’m going to try (to play).”
Manager Mike Matheny was encouraged Molina was able to throw Monday. He will continue to be evaluated to determine how much he might be able to do.
“I didn’t think there was any possibility, having that injury myself,” Matheny said. “It’s just great having him with us in any capacity.”
The Cardinals, who tied the series 1-all with a 5-4 win Sunday, carried three catchers and have Tony Cruz and A.J. Pierzynski to fill the big void, if needed. Matheny wouldn’t announce his starting catcher for Game 3 on Tuesday, and hopes to be able to use Molina at the least off the bench — hinting he would be unlikely to start. Molina will continue to be examined by the medical staff.
“We needed to see Yadi move around a little bit. We needed to see him throw,” Matheny said. “That’s encouraging for our club.”
Game 3 starter John Lackey worked with Pierzynski during their time together in Boston earlier this year.
“When you lose a guy of his caliber, there’s always going to be a hole for sure. He’s probably the best in the game back there and a pleasure to throw to. We’ve still got to get out there and compete and give it a run,” Lackey said. “A.J. and I are good. Obviously I pitched to him a bunch in Boston this year.”
Matheny said Molina can contribute in so many ways, even if he doesn’t get back on the field.
“Obviously it’s a big loss, but we spent some time without him this year and we’re fortunate to have A.J. and Tony, who are two really good players,” infielder Mark Ellis said. “We’re lucky to have them but I feel bad for Yadi because this is what he worked for the whole year and he’s not able to be with us.”
From Matheny’s perspective, if losing Molina motivates the Cardinals to prove wrong the skeptics who don’t believe St. Louis can advance without him, so be it.
“We are not going to make any kind of false statement that he is not a key component to our club,” Matheny said. “But any team that loses that piece, you never know how they are going to respond, and I was real proud of how the guys ... yeah, first, they are like, ‘Wow, that hurts.’ I think it’s hard for them not to hear what’s being said nationally about this is one guy that our club can’t do without.
“I think that actually gave a little spur, because that insults the rest of the guys in that room to say that they are not good enough to do it,” Matheny added.