(BaseballStL) -- St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina was taken off the 15-day DL and put back into the starting lineup for Thursday's day tilt against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Molina, who says he's recovered from a right knee strain, will bat in the five spot sandwiched between Allen Craig- who is filling in for Carlos Beltran in right- and first baseman Matt Adams.
Molina worked out on the field for the third straight day before Wednesday night's game against the Pirates and said everything felt good. He said now is no time to rest.
"You have to give it your all every time because it's only a month and a half left," Molina said. "Every time you get a day off it's beautiful for your body but right now my team needs me and I'll be ready to go."
Clubhouse energy appeared to be up as Molina played music from his locker going through his pre game routine. Speaking on the field Thursday, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak acknowledged Molina's return is an undeniable boost to the club.
"I think when you look at what Yadi brings to the table, there's pure performance," he said, noting Molina's MVP-caliber year. "Then there are those things as far as leadership, game management -and I think most pitchers would tell you- a level of confidence knowing he's behind the plate."
Manager Mike Matheny, himself a former four-time Gold Glove catcher, said the team has a plan for keeping Molina in the lineup the rest of the way but said they'd have to adjust on the fly. He minimized the chance of Molina getting semi-rest days and playing first base where young slugger Matt Adams would be getting the spot starts.
"We're going to be careful," Matheny said. "You just have to try to do the right thing."
Mozeliak stressed that the plan for managing Molina has been well communicated and says the club will do everything they can to avoid late-notice lineup changes.
Molina has been dealing with knee woes for a couple months while playing almost every day, totaling 361 at-bats to 116 for backups Tony Cruz and Rob Johnson combined. The Cardinals had been 6-7 without the player who led National League vote-getters for the All-Star Game, and trailed Pittsburgh by two games.
Molina was second in the NL with a .330 average, along with eight homers and 54 RBIs and Cruz was batting .219 with a homer and 11 RBIs.