Posted on May 31, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
It appears as if a rough month of May for the St. Louis Cardinals will end in a rather fitting way. On Friday, the Cardinals placed veteran catcher Yadier Molina on the 10-day Injured List because of a tendon strain in his right thumb. After struggling throughout May, the last thing the Cardinals need right now is to be without their starting catcher and team leader. Alas, they will need to find a way to get by without Molina for the foreseeable future.
Molina initially injured his thumb last weekend. He was able to play through it for a couple of games. But Molina has been held out of the lineup the past two days after having trouble gripping his bat. The Cardinals hope to have a better idea of how long Molina will be out after he visits a hand specialist.
“He’s been trying to do what he can the last couple of days, just not something that, after what the imaging looked like today, looked like it wasn’t going to heal with some more time and care,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said Friday. “For a mortal person, it’d probably be an X amount of time, but for Yadi, it’ll be something different.”
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With Molina out, Matt Wieters will step in as the primary catcher for St. Louis. Coming off two dreadful seasons with the Nationals, Wieters had to settle for a minor league contract this offseason. But he made the opening day roster and has provided the Cardinals with a competent backup behind Molina. Despite getting limited opportunities to play, Wieters is hitting .387 with an OPS of 1.121, hitting three home runs in just 31 at-bats this season.
Of course, Welters will have to remain productive while playing on a daily basis. Molina was hitting a modest .265 with an OPS of .690, so the Cardinals aren’t getting a ton of productivity from the catcher position this year. But they’ll need to get something out of the 33-year-old Wieters, especially with several key players in the midst of a dreadful slump. Over the past week, Paul DeJong, Dexter Fowler, and Kolten Wong are a combined 2 for 62, so there’s a big chunk of the St. Louis lineup producing nothing at the moment.
Taking Molina’s spot on the roster will be Andrew Knizner, the team’s no. 2 prospect, according to MLB.com. Knizner has a well-rounded skill set and could be the catcher of the future in St. Louis whenever Molina retires. Before the call-up, he was hitting .286 with an OPS of .805 at triple-A, indicating that he’s ready for his first chance in the majors.
“What Matt has been able to provide for us when he plays has been impressive,” said Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak. “Now he gets an opportunity to catch every day. Andrew Knizner gets the opportunity to come to the big leagues, and he’ll take the backup role, but we’ll get him some playing time as well.”
As mentioned, the loss of Molina to the IL couldn’t have come at a worse time. The Cardinals began Friday a game under .500 and 4.5 games behind the Cubs in the NL Central. They also haven’t won back-to-back games since May 1. Given Molina’s importance defensively, managing the pitching staff, and as a leader in the clubhouse, this is a big blow to an already struggling Cardinals team.