Molina could return for Royals series

August 10th, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- (right thumb tendon strain) will continue his rehab assignment at Double-A Springfield for the weekend and likely look for a return in Kansas City on Tuesday, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said Friday.

Molina, who has been on the injured list since July 8, spent two days in St. Louis before going to Springfield on Thursday to meet with the medical team, and all feedback was positive. The next three days will focus on getting at bats.

The veteran catcher is 2-for-12 with a home run and seven strikeouts in five games between Triple-A Memphis and Springfield since beginning his rehab assignment on Aug. 2.

Reyes seeking second opinion
Right-hander , on the Triple-A injured list with a right pectoral strain, was evaluated in St. Louis on Thursday and, encouraged by the Cardinals, will seek a second opinion on his injury. The medical team found nothing more significant other than the pectoral strain, even though Reyes, who was hurt on June 23, still felt pain during a bullpen session Monday.

“Everything we’ve seen and checked out from our medical side is there’s nothing -- he’s just not recovered and taking the next step forward,” Shildt said. “But nothing’s going backward.”

Shildt said Reyes’ return to the big leagues this season isn’t unlikely, but it isn’t “overly favorable,” either. This will be the third year that Reyes has missed significant time -- he was out all of 2017 with Tommy John surgery and had surgery on his right lat tendon in 2018.

Frustration and disappointment have crept in, but Shildt praised Reyes’ mindset through the process.

“We all know what he’s capable of,” Shildt said. “It’s pretty clear, we’ve only seen a small window of it here at the big leagues, but we’ve watched enough baseball to realize that all of his pitches and weapons play and can, and have been, and are elite. That makes everybody -- and probably more so [for] Alex than anybody, it creates that frustration. You think about it and take a step back for Alex and talk to him about it, you know you belong at the Major League level and you know you have the ability to be a top-line guy. You just physically can’t get out there.

“[Reyes] knows that he’s got this deserved reputation of being a guy that can really help us, and everybody wants that. Trifecta of frustration. And very few have this understanding of what it takes to rehab an injury. … That’s a hard thing to go through, and to do it twice, and now parts of a third time, that’s a tough thing for anybody. I have empathy for Alex, applaud his mindset, but clearly, rightfully, he’s disappointed.”

The opener in St. Louis?
Could the opener find a way to St. Louis? Shildt has said he’s not closed to the idea, and it certainly could be an option as the Cardinals search for consistency in the fifth rotation spot.

He explained that he liked the way the Angels utilized it when they visited St. Louis in June and the pitcher had to hit. Noe Ramirez pitched two quick innings before Felix Pena came in to pitch four innings. The Angels, carrying five players on the bench, were able to hit for Ramirez in the top of the third and used Shohei Ohtani.

“For me, that was the utopia of the opener,” Shildt said. “You got your innings out of the guy, you pitched him effectively, you used him like you would a guy on any shorter leash, he got the outs, and then you had the offensive advantage of going to a guy on the bench so he doesn’t have to hit.”

But Shildt also mentioned how that strategy affects the way the team uses the bullpen in the days surrounding the opener game, in terms of availability of relievers.

“Nothing’s in a vacuum,” Shildt said. “We’ve talked more about what that looks like and the potentiality of using it. ... If you treat the [opener] as a true reliever, that’s got X number of bullets, and he’s pitching well, and he gets in that spot, I would like to have our starter be able to come out of the bullpen as the reliever and not feel married to that opener -- figure out a way to get to the end of the inning or now to have another reliever to come in to get him out to have our starter come in on his structured deal.”

Worth noting
• As the Cardinals skip the fifth rotation spot for the time being -- Miles Mikolas will start Sunday against the Pirates on normal rest thanks to the off day Thursday -- Michael Wacha will be available out of the bullpen starting Friday night, Shildt said. The Cardinals would likely use Wacha for long-inning relief, if needed.

• Friday is Shildt’s 51st birthday, and he’ll spend it managing the Cardinals at Busch Stadium -- no where else he’d rather be, he said.

“I get to have the greatest job in the world,” Shildt said. “I get to show up, interact with a great group of guys and staff in a beautiful setting in St. Louis. Ultimately, it’s about shaking hands at the end of the game to celebrate. … If I lose, it’s a bad day. No matter what day it is.”