Cardinals All-Star catcher Yadier Molina has a partially torn ligament in his left thumb, and St. Louis hopes he might return during the regular season.
''I think this is sort of the best news we could hope for,'' general manager John Mozeliak said Monday.
Molina will be re-evaluated late this week or early next week.
''It'll really depend on how the next 5-7 days go,'' Mozeliak said.
St. Louis also cleared right-hander Adam Wainwright for baseball activities after he made a rapid recovery from a torn left Achilles, an injury sustained April 25. The two-time 20-game winner could help in the bullpen during the postseason.
''I've been watching him throw bullpens and watching him strut around,'' manager Mike Matheny said. ''He's been telling everybody this was going to happen, so I don't know why we're surprised.''
Molina missed about two months with a torn ligament in his right thumb last season. The Cardinals said Monday the latest injury, to his glove hand, is not so severe.
Molina was hurt while tagging the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo attempting to score the tying run on a fly ball on Sunday.
Tony Cruz will be the everyday catcher for now for St. Louis, which led the NL Central by four games with 13 to go.
Molina was batting .270 with four homers and 61 RBIs and is widely considered the best defensive catcher in the game. Cruz was hitting .173 with one homer and seven RBIs with just 104 at-bats.
''It's always tough to fill someone's shoes, but Cruz has had opportunities in the past and last year he ended up being on the postseason roster because of what he showed,'' Mozeliak said.
St. Louis selected the contract of catcher Travis Tartamella from Triple-A Memphis, where he batted just .203 but was considered a defensive asset. First baseman Xavier Scruggs was designated for assignment.
Randal Grichuk started in left field following his recovery from an elbow injury. Grichuk entered with just nine at-bats in September and had not started since Sept. 9, when he had to flip throws to a fellow outfielder in a game against the Cubs.
''If he had to make a throw, he could do it,'' Mozeliak said.
Brian Walton’s take
The Cardinals really had no other option than to call on Tartamella. Though Double-A prospect Michael Ohlman is on the 40-man roster, he is already in Florida getting ready to play in the Arizona Fall League starting next month. Given his experience level, it is better for Ohlman’s development for him to stay the course for 2015 and show his stuff in spring training.
The Cardinals not having Molina behind the plate will be a real challenge as they try to maintain their four-game lead and clinch the division. Though Molina has not been at his best offensively, his value with the pitching staff has been proven over and over.
My over-under on Tartamella at-bats between now and the end of the season is 1.5. Even if Molina is unable to return for the post-season, the only way Tartamella would make the roster would be if Cruz or Ed Easley was injured. Still, his perseverance is admirable and now, it has been rewarded.
Being cleared for baseball activities is a big step for Wainwright, but that does not mean he is ready to be activated, even as a reliever. He won’t have much time to prove he is ready to be on a post-season roster, but I would not ever count him out.
A point to remember is that for Wainwright to be activated, another player would have to come off the 40-man roster. It can be done, but it is not without consequence. Currently, the Cardinals have 36 of their 40-man roster active with St. Louis. As the last non-prospect on the 40-man, infielder Dean Anna should be very nervous.
Speaking of which… Scruggs is the odd man out to create room for Tartamella. It is unfortunate for the first baseman, a good organizational soldier, but it seems that he does not have a clear future in St. Louis. On the other hand, Scruggs’ Memphis teammate Aledmys Diaz showed this summer that bring dropped from the 40-man does not have to be a career-ender.
It is all about production, or as in the case of Tartamella, being in the right place at the right time.
Scruggs cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Memphis.
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