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Yadi returns to lineup for key series vs. Dodgers

MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- Though still limited in his mobility, Yadier Molina assured the Cardinals that, after a week-long layoff, he was healthy enough to return behind the plate for the club's series opener against the Dodgers at Busch Stadium on Thursday night.

Molina huddled with manager Mike Shildt and the club's athletic trainers after testing his left hamstring with some on-field running on Thursday afternoon. They emerged from that conversation convinced that Molina would not be compromised behind the plate or at it. He will be limited running the bases, though that's a trade-off the Cardinals are willing to accept.

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ST. LOUIS -- Though still limited in his mobility, Yadier Molina assured the Cardinals that, after a week-long layoff, he was healthy enough to return behind the plate for the club's series opener against the Dodgers at Busch Stadium on Thursday night.

Molina huddled with manager Mike Shildt and the club's athletic trainers after testing his left hamstring with some on-field running on Thursday afternoon. They emerged from that conversation convinced that Molina would not be compromised behind the plate or at it. He will be limited running the bases, though that's a trade-off the Cardinals are willing to accept.

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"I trust him," Shildt said. "We had a clear, honest conversation about what it looks like. The reality is there could be an issue with [the hamstring] in five days, today, 10 days with any and everybody at this time of the year. There's no guarantee about it. But he's very confident that he can regulate himself in what he's doing so not to have a setback, which we clearly don't need."

Shildt dropped Molina to seventh in the lineup to perhaps lessen the impact of his slowed baserunning, though that wasn't a factor in Thursday's 9-7 loss. Molina reached base once in two plate appearances on a walk before being replaced in the top of the fifth with the Cardinals trailing, 8-1.

Shildt confirmed after the game that his decision to remove Molina was dictated by the score, not a recurrence of any injury.

The early exit will help Molina's chances of making multiple other starts in the rest of this four-game series. With two catchers on their bench, the Cardinals also have the flexibility to pinch-run for Molina in the right spot late in a game.

Having his presence behind the plate, particularly in a series where the Cardinals have two rookie starters going against the Dodgers, was the impetus behind the aggressive approach with Molina's rehab.

"You're talking about a guy and, I have to be careful how I phrase this part, but I don't know if there is anybody more valuable in this league relative to the total composition of what he brings to the table," Shildt said. "There's not a metric you can put on Yadier Molina. That's about as big a compliment I can give in today's game. It's not a knock against anybody. He just sees the field and he understands the game better than anybody I've seen in this game in my life."

Full strength
Molina wasn't the only addition the Cardinals made to their lineup on Thursday. Jedd Gyorko, who made a pinch-hitting appearance after being activated from the 10-day disabled list on Wednesday, was also plugged in for his first start since Aug. 28. Gyorko went 1-for-5 with an RBI.

Video: LAD@STL: A pair come home on fielders choice, error

Gyorko's return shifted Matt Carpenter across the diamond to first base, though the Cardinals will keep his position fluid so they can continue to involve Matt Adams. Adams is likely to draw the start on Friday against right-hander Walker Buehler. Gyorko will be the preferred option to start against lefties.

Minor matters
• Triple-A Memphis dropped Game 2 of the Pacific Coast League Championship, 10-1, to Fresno on Wednesday. Lefty Tyler Lyons allowed six second-inning runs, and Fresno finished the night with 15 hits. The best-of-five series, which is tied at one game apiece, shifts to Memphis for Game 3 on Friday (7:05 p.m. CT).

• Class A Peoria fell, 4-0, to Bowling Green to open up the Midwest League Championship Series. Johan Oviedo was charged with four runs in his five-inning start.

• Outfielder Andrew Warner, a 40th-round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, was named the Gulf Coast League's Most Valuable Player after hitting .342 with 16 doubles, four homers and 27 RBIs in 31 games. His skipper, Erick Almonte, earned Manager of the Year honors for leading the GCL Cardinals to a 40-16 record in his first full season as manager.

In total, the Cardinals' organization placed three players on the GCL All-Star team. Along with Warner, right-handed starter Brian Pirela and righty reliever Edgar Escobar were recognized with the honor.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

St. Louis Cardinals, Yadier Molina