Posted on June 5, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine

St. Louis Cardinals

Image via stltoday.com

As they fight for the top spot in the uber-competitive NL Central, the St. Louis Cardinals are about to add two all-stars to their roster. On Tuesday, the Cardinals activated both ace Carlos Martinez and catcher Yadier Molina from the DL. The St. Louis roster continues to be decimated by injuries. But the Cardinals are getting back two of their most impactful players, additions that could help propel them to the top of the division.

Martinez has been activated to start Tuesday’s game against the Marlins. He originally went on the DL on May 10 because of a lat strain. Despite Martinez missing nearly a month of action, the St. Louis rotation has the second-best ERA in the National League. However, with Adam Wainwright’s season in doubt and Alex Reyes returning to the DL right after his return, the Cardinals need their ace taking the mound every five days if they’re going to rise to the top of the NL Central.

In his eight starts this season, Martinez is 3-2 with a 1.68 ERA. If he’s able to keep up that pace upon his return, Martinez will undoubtedly be in the middle of the Cy Young race at season’s end. He made just one minor league rehab start before returning to the Cardinals. But Martinez insists he’s ready to pick up where he left off.

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“I feel good with my arm and feel comfortable with all my pitches,” Martinez said last week. “I’m ready to go.”

Molina’s return could be equally impactful for the Cardinals. The 35-year old suffered a horrible injury on May 5 that required emergency surgery for a traumatic hematoma. Exactly a month later, Molina says he’s fully recovered and ready to get back behind the plate.

“It was a lot of pain the first couple of weeks, I could barely walk,” Molina said of the injury. “But after the second week, I started feeling better. It’s been hard for me this past month, watching the team on TV. Right now I’m feeling good, 100 percent.”

Prior to the injury, Molina had started 29 of the team’s 31 games. Even at his advanced age, he is still capable of catching nine innings nearly every day. He was also in the midst of another solid campaign offensively. Molina will return to the lineup Tuesday hitting .272 with an OPS of .748. In his absence, both Francisco Pena and Carson Kelly struggled offensively, so Molina’s bat will be as welcomed back as his defense and leadership.

With both Molina and Martinez missing most of the past month, the Cardinals were just 13-13. But that’s not a bad record considering all the injuries that have befallen St. Louis this year. The Cardinals began Tuesday seven games over .500 and just 3.5 games behind the Brewers in the NL Central. However, with Martinez and Molina coming back on the same day, now could be the time for the Cardinals to make their move and push to surpass both the Brewers and Cubs for the top spot in the NL Central.

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