Molina shakes off wrist scare, slugs homer

September 21st, 2020

's left wrist has been hit three times this week, but each time it hasn’t stopped him from returning to the lineup the next day. The Cardinals' veteran was back in the lineup to catch Jack Flaherty and hit a go-ahead two-run homer in Sunday's 2-1 win against the Pirates after he was hit by a pitch in St. Louis' 5-4 win on Saturday night.

Molina left the game Saturday with a left wrist contusion, and X-rays came back negative after the game. The club was comfortable with what that imaging showed and did not follow up with scans Sunday morning, manager Mike Shildt said.

“If he’s going to have a chance to get on the field, he’s going to take it,” Shildt said. “Obviously, it bothered him last evening, but he was diligent with his treatment after the game [and] today and then said he’s ready to go, and I trust that completely.”

Pirates reliever Geoff Hartlieb hit Molina with a pitch in the area of his left wrist -- the same one that was hit by Ryan Braun’s bat earlier this week against Milwaukee, when Molina was called for catcher’s interference. Molina stayed in that game for two more innings and returned to the lineup the next day.

A second catcher’s interference followed a few days later in Pittsburgh, when Bryan Reynolds nicked Molina’s glove on Friday. After being drilled by a pitch in the same area Saturday, Molina yielded to Matt Wieters in the top of the eighth inning. Molina has caught 29 innings since first being hit with Braun’s bat.

“He’s obviously banged up, but his toughness level … this guy’s just different,” Shildt said. “Tough guy dealing with it. He’s in there, he’s a warrior and he’s one of our head gladiators with a team full of them.”

The Cardinals played their 49th game of the season on Sunday, but the season hasn't seemed that short to Molina with all that he's been through the past week.

“It really feels like 180 [games] the way my body feels," Molina said. "You want to go day by day, that’s for sure. You want to stay as strong as you can. Right now, you don’t think that. You think about day by day, try to win the game that day.”

X-rays and a CT scan after Molina was hit Tuesday in Milwaukee showed nothing was broken, but the Cardinals were cautious with their catcher, moving him down in the lineup the next day to limit his at-bats. Shildt said that there were no fractures shown on the X-rays on Saturday night, either.

“We felt good about the imaging last night," he said. "We’re comfortable medically, from what I’ve been told, nothing to be concerned about from a fracture standpoint.”

Wong gets day off Sunday
Notably absent from the lineup Sunday was second baseman Kolten Wong, who has been dealing with a sore left side. Shildt said it’s an opportunity to give him a day off as Wong tries to avoid an injury that would sideline him for the rest of the season.

Wong has been wrapped up with tape and has been playing for several days since the injury, but the Cardinals want to be cautious with not just Wong, but all of their position players as they finish out this stretch of games in the final week of the regular season. What the team doesn’t want to have happen is the players’ fatigue leading to more injury.

“That’s the balancing act,” Shildt said. “We’re striking it as well as we can. We’re in competition. We want to take care of guys. We know guys will have to push a little bit more than they are used to by far and still stay ahead of a guy that’s had a little something going on that we need to continue to be smart about in the moment for a little bit of a longer term play.”

Cards acquire lefty starter from Pirates
Shortly before Sunday’s series finale at PNC Park, the Pirates and Cardinals announced a minor trade: St. Louis sent international bonus pool money to Pittsburgh for lefty Domingo Robles.

Robles had a 3.49 ERA as a starter between Class A Advanced (10 starts) and Double-A (18 starts) in 2019. He struck out 124 batters with 36 walks over the two levels and was durable, pitching 165 innings with a 9-11 record.

Two years ago, Robles was the Pirates’ No. 28 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and he signed with Pittsburgh for $175,000 in 2014 out of the Dominican Republic. He won’t be added to the Cardinals' player pool or have any impact on this year, but he’s another lefty added to the St. Louis farm system for the future.

Worth noting
• Génesis Cabrera earned his first save of the season and his second career save on Saturday with a five-out rescue. The 23-year-old lefty has pitched his way into high-leverage spots within the Cardinals' bullpen, and he and Alex Reyes have given St. Louis a lethal left-right combo that can go multiple innings.

“That’s what we’re here for,” Cabrera said through Spanish interpreter Antonio Mujica. “I feel really proud of myself that I’m getting the opportunity to be in those high-leverage spots, so whenever the manager calls for me, that’s where I’m going to be ready. I’m really grateful for it.”