JUPITER, FL. (KMOV.com) -- Yadier Molina, recovering from a second thumb surgery performed this offseason, has begun receiving work behind the plate.
The Cardinal backstop went through drills with trainers in full pads Friday morning, and balls from a pitching machine.
"It feels OK. It wasn't anything hard, it was soft, but it felt good," he said.
Before catching a bullpen from a live pitcher, trainers will ramp the speed up on the machine to build up strength. Whether that will come Saturday or at a later date depends on Molina's body response.
"It all depends on how I feel," he said. "How I wake up."
The progress is encouraging for the Cardinals, as Molina was projected to miss the majority of spring training.
“It was a really good morning of work,” manager Mike Matheny said when discussing his Gold Glove backstop possibly catching a live bullpen session. “I don’t have his exact schedule in front of me today, but it’s getting close. More just playing catch, but if there was a pen that we thought would be a controlled pen that would work out for him alright, then we’ll see him. It’s not far away.”
Molina still says he's eyeing Opening Day as a target, and given his legendary work ethic (In 2014 he returned 7 weeks to the day from a torn ligament in his right thumb when the projected absence was 8-12 weeks), the fact he's already receiving is a good sign for that prediction.
The veteran has been arriving early to the complex every day to get his training and rehab work in so he can assist in any way he can during full-squad drills, almost acting as another coach.
“He has those hawk eyes,” new Cardinal catcher Brayan Pena said. “He has that blessing where he can see what you’re doing wrong. Right away he comes up to you and goes, ‘hey, just try this and let’s see how you feel.’”
As effective as he is in an instructional capacity, Molina is happiest in the crouch. With Friday's progress, he can start to see the finish line.
Plenty of hurdles remain on his route back to catching full throttle, but his recovery status seems to be right where he and the Cardinals were hoping it would be, perhaps even better.