Molina inching closer to Opening Day start with each spring swin -

Molina inching closer to Opening Day start with each spring swing

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JUPITER, Fla. – Yadier Molina inched closer to being ready for Opening Day and Cards’ manager Mike Matheny liked what he saw of the veteran catcher, especially his final at-bat of the day.

Although he did not hit safely, Molina fouled off several pitches and drove some balls well on the day, swinging at nearly every pitch that was thrown anywhere near the strike zone. “Yadi looked like he was ready to hit something,” Matheny smiled in the post-game press conference. “He looked good in batting practice and had a quality at-bat (in his final plate appearance).”

The skipper said the game represented “another good step” for the 33-year-old catcher who is recovering from surgery for a torn thumb ligament. Molina had three at-bats in Thursday’s loss and is showing “progression” according to Matheny, toward a potential Opening Day start. He said Brayan Pena was ready to catch Saturday in Fort Myers against the Boston Red Sox.

In other comments, Matheny said he liked the way Jonathan Broxton and Jordan Walden were lining up in the bullpen and said Friday’s performance by Tyler Lyons was one of his best so far this spring. Lyons threw 1 1/3 innings and surrendered a single, fanning two. “He had the slider working today,” Matheny said.

He also said that the staff is watching Walden closely as he recovers from a rotator cuff injury that sidelined him for most of last season. He threw a perfect inning Friday and his fastball touched 90 mph several times. Asked when Walden convinced him he was healthy and ready to contribute, Matheny said, “he’s still doing it.”  He said they are evaluating Walden practically pitch-by-pitch and monitoring his consistency.

The skipper said he was also pleased to see Adams successfully lay down a bunt on the left side in an attempt to defeat the over shift which leaves that side of the field open. Adams has successfully done that twice this spring and Matheny said Brandon Moss – also the victim of the massive over shift – has been working on it as well. “You’re crazy not to do it. It opens up the field. I don’t know why (a player) wouldn’t try it.”

Matt Holliday’s leaping catch that robbed a home run is just further evidence his off-season conditioning, Matheny said. “He’s in great shape. He looks good.”

The Cards’ manager also gently continued his invective about the inaccuracy of the stadium’s radar gun, which at one point measured the speed of a pitch at 50 mph. Matheny said the radar gun is not just for entertainment purposes but is of value to the Redbirds’ staff as it evaluates how a pitcher is performing. “Sometimes a pitcher’s velocity doesn’t look right and if I know he’s lost something on the fastball I can get him out.” The gun is about 4 mph slow when it works, which, apparently, is not very often.

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