(BaseballStL) — Yadier Molina was pulled from the game Wednesday night after injuring his thumb in the second inning.
After leading off with a double, the Cardinal catcher tried to advance when Allen Craig grounded to third baseman Pedro Alvarez. Molina slid in safely, but appeared to hurt his right thumb in the process.
He was visited by the trainer and Mike Matheny, but stayed in the game. After being stranded at third, he suited up and caught the top of the next inning without incident.
However once the Cardinals came to the plate, Tony Cruz could be seen wearing shin guards, getting ready for enter the game in case of a 1-2-3 inning.
When Molina’s spot in the order came up, it was Cruz who picked up a stick.
“He went through some tests and could feel some irritation there obviously,” Matheny said of Molina. “He was still trying. He got taped up and was convinced he was going back in but we needed to get it looked at.”
The All Star catcher, who will now likely miss the Midsummer Classic, was sent for an MRI on his thumb. The club won’t have results until Thursday, so there’s no official word on how serious the injury is or how much time Molina will miss, but Matheny did not have a particularly optimistic tone.
“Any time we have to take him out, you know it’s pretty bad but we’ll know tomorrow,” he said. “His left thumb I’ll tell you right now is in bad shape. It’s been that way for a long time as most catcher’s thumbs are. You get those foul tips or a ball that goes the wrong way and it messes with that ligament a little bit in the thumb. But to have it on the right hand, I’ve never had that so I don’t know.”
Only Miguel Montero of the Diamondbacks had caught more innings than Molina coming into Wednesday, and the St. Louis backstop’s 79 starts are tied for most in the majors.
If he’s is sidelined for significant time, the Cardinals will have to make due without his game-changing presence behind the plate. Only 18 runners have stolen a base on Molina, seven fewer than the next catcher on the list. He’s cut down 48.6 percent of all those attempting to steal against him, and has been charged with just two errors all year.
Tony Cruz will take over behind the plate in Molina’s absence. Audry Perez is the only other catcher on the 40-man roster, and would likely be called up to protect Cruz barring surprisingly good news on Molina’s thumb. Daniel Descalso is the team’s emergency catcher when short-handed, but is not a tenable option behind the plate given his role as utility infielder.
Cruz has appeared in 21 games this season, hitting .255. Despite the heavy load Molina shoulders, Cardinal pitchers are confident in the 27-year-old backup.
“Cruz does a good job of staying in tune with what’s going on throughout the game. Asking Yadi what pitches he was throwing. That’s just shows you he’s ready to go at any time,” said Lance Lynn, who finished the final 3.2 innings of his outing throwing him. “We were right in sync as we went on.”
With the St. Louis just two back of the Brewers in the division, Cruz could be tested with a critical stretch of games before the break.