photo: Yadier Molina (Springfield Cardinals)
It is not too often that an eight-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove Award-winning MLB catcher is in a Double-A lineup.
Yadier Molina, recovering from a traumatic hematoma in the groin area, began the first of his two-game rehab assignment with the Springfield Cardinals on Saturday night.
“For me, it’s a great feeling (to have a prestigious MLB catcher behind the plate),” Springfield manager Johnny Rodriguez said. “It doesn’t happen often when you can say, ‘Well, I managed a game that (Yadier) Molina caught.’ Many people can’t say that.
“It’s a great feeling not just for myself, but the players and the staff. He knows I’m all business. He’s all business. It’s just a great thing for all of us. It’s something you never forget.”
As expected, Molina played half the game for Springfield and took three plate appearances. The first time up, the right-handed hitter, who is looking to regain timing after missing nearly a month, whiffed at two fastballs before flying out to the warning track in right field. Molina batted for the second time in the third and took a 75 mph curveball off his tricep. He ended his night with a sac fly to right center in the fourth.
The next step for Molina before he completes his rehab is a full game on Sunday. If all goes well, he is expected to return and catch Carlos Martinez’s start on Tuesday against the Miami Marlins in St. Louis.
With the big league Cardinals this season, Molina is hitting .272 with six home runs and 17 runs batted in 30 games (of the team’s 55).
Below is a transcript from Molina’s media session conducted after he was lifted from the game on Saturday. In the presser, Molina details what it is like to be back and playing, recovery from a traumatic injury, and much more.
Media Member: How did it feel to be back out there tonight?
Yadier Molina: “Great, awesome. It’s good to be back and be on the field with the team. It felt great (to be back).”
MM: Already knowing that you are going to try to play Tuesday, what are you focusing on these two games in Springfield?
YM: “I’m just trying to get back in shape, like playing shape. I’m trying to see pitches and trying to get the feel back. That’s what I’m focused on and get that feel back.”
MM: You have rehabbed from injuries before, but what has this last month been like? How difficult has it been?
YM: “It’s been so difficult to watch the team on T.V. and you are in your bed and you can do nothing. It’s so difficult, but right now, I feel good. I feel almost 100%. I can’t wait to be back.”
MM: The recovery – from obviously a traumatic injury – was there a lot of pain for you along the way?
YM: “The first couple of weeks was like real pain. Like, I couldn’t move and anything. After the second week, it started getting better. Right now, I don’t feel anything right now. I feel 100%. I’m ready to go.”
MM: How much are you looking forward to your first game back being Carlos (Martinez’s) first game back?
YM: “I’m excited. I can’t wait. Obviously, Carlos is going to pitch on Tuesday. I’m going to try and make it. It’s not official yet, but I’m going to see how I feel tomorrow. I’m going to try and make it. I want to be there for him and the team.”
MM: The National League Central is really tough right now. How excited are you to get back up there and help out with the big league club?
YM: “Like I said, I’m excited to be back and try and help the team win. Obviously, we are win a tough division. Every team is playing good. I’m concentrated on getting back on the field and try to help the team win.”
MM: How did you feel at the plate tonight in terms of your timing?
YM: “Terrible (he said smiling). It is what it is. It’s a part of this (rehab). My first at-bat I felt terrible. The second at-bat I got better and better. Hopefully, tomorrow I feel better because the first at-bat was bad.”
MM: You guys were down here before last season to play the Springfield Cardinals – what is that ovation like before the game walking from the bullpen to the dugout with every fan on their feet?
YM: “Awesome, awesome. I love this place. Every time I come here – it’s good for me. I enjoy coming here. It’s great to see those fans. When I heard that ovation, it made me feel good.”
MM: What can you say about the catchers in St. Louis that have taken your place since you’ve been gone and how they have played?
YM: “I think they have done pretty good. (Francisco) Pena and (Carson) Kelly they have done a pretty good job for us so far. I’m good with that. Pena is good with studying the game. We have talked. One day on the road they called me and I called them. We are on the same page. I feel good when they do good for the team.”
MM: As the team continues to get more healthy, how good can that team up in St. Louis be?
YM: “We’re going to be good. I mean, no doubt about it. We are going to get better. Right now, we have a couple of guys offensively that have been up-and-down, but we just got too many guys hurt. I’ve got no doubt when we get healthy we are going to be in good shape.”
MM: Have you ever seen a month like this at the major league level – when 11 different players hit the disabled list?
YM: “First time. First time I have seen this in 15 years. That is what I can tell you about this organization. One guy goes down, there is another guy that shows up and do good for us. That is why this organization is on the top.”
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