Eight-time Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals will miss most of spring training as he had surgery on a torn ligament in his thumb for the second time in past two months yesterday.
Molina, 33 years old, tore a ligament in his left thumb when then-Cardinals right-fielder Jason Heyward nailed Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo at home plate on September 20. Rizzo was tagging up from third on a fly ball hit to right field and spiked Molina directly on his thumb when sliding into home. Although Rizzo was out, Molina was in extreme pain and had to exit the game after the half inning.
The seven-time All-Star backstop sat out the remainder of the regular season with Tony Cruz filling the void behind the plate. Molina returned to action at the beginning of the postseason but couldn’t even finish out the series as Cruz started Game 4 of the NLDS against the Cubs. It was obvious that Molina was having trouble swinging the bat as he went 1-for-8 in the series.
The mastermind behind the Cardinals pitching staff underwent surgery on the torn ligament for the first time on October 15. Since then, the Cardinals signed 33-year-old former Cincinnati Reds catcher Brayan Pena to a two-year, $5 million deal and shipped Cruz to the Kansas City Royals for infielder Jose Martinez.
Cruz hit just .204 with two home runs and 11 RBIs in 69 games last season, while Pena posted a higher batting average at .273 but zero home runs and 18 RBIs in over 100 games.
With Molina undergoing his second thumb surgery yesterday, the team speculates he’ll be out for four to five weeks before resuming any baseball activity. The Cardinals fully believe Molina will be in time for Opening Day, but since he is expected to miss most of spring training this will force Pena to be the number-one guy trying to learn a new team’s entire pitching staff down in Jupiter, Florida.