KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Yadier Molina thinks he may have rushed himself back to the field when he hurt his thumb in May, and that’s why the Cardinals’ star catcher landed back on the injured list last early last month.
He doesn’t intend to make the same mistake.
Molina was activated Tuesday night for the opener of a two-game series in Kansas City after a minor league rehab stint that included a daunting challenge: The nine-time All-Star was sent to the plate on a couple occasions and told not to swing, allowing him to get his timing back but protecting that thumb.
“No matter where you’re playing you want to help the team,” said Molina, who missed 28 games after landing on the injured list July 8 with a strained tendon. “Just to track pitches is difficult.”
Well, Molina will have the green light to swing Tuesday night. He was back in the starting lineup before the plate, batting seventh for a team that has been playing well without him.
“Hopefully I can help the team,” he said, “and we’ll see what happens.”
The move was among several that the Cardinals have made since Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh.
The first came to the coaching staff on Monday when the Cardinals fired assistant hitting coach Mark Budaska and promoted Jobel Jimenez, the hitting coach of their Triple-A affiliate in Memphis.
The move was made because of what manager Mike Shildt called “philosophical differences.”
“Clearly it’s a decision I didn’t want to make but ultimately it’s the right decision,” Shildt said. “It’s not one that was taken lightly. It’s one that was made after many discussions.”
Third baseman Tommy Edman said it could help to have “some new energy and new direction.”
“I think that could be good for all of us,” Edman added.
More moves came on Tuesday, beginning with the return of Molina. He was joined by hotshot prospect Randy Arozarena in making the trip from Memphis, while outfielder Jose Martinez went on the injured list after colliding with the wall in Pittsburgh and spraining the AC joint in his right shoulder.
Shildt said he doesn’t expect Martinez, who is hitting .266 with 10 homers and 40 RBIs, to miss much time. But his departure opens up a spot for Arozarena, who was not in the starting lineup Tuesday night but is expected to get onto the field soon.
“We want to see Randy play We know everyone wants to see Randy play,” Shildt said. “We’ll get him in there sooner or later. I want to see Randy play, too.”
That’s because the 24-year-old Arozarena, who signed as an international free agent out of Cuba, was hitting .349 with 10 homers, 42 RBIs and 16 stolen bases while splitting time between Memphis and Double-A Springfield. He had reached base safely in his last 37 starts.
“I knew it was coming. I knew it was close,” said Arozarena, who like fellow Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig will wear No. 66. “But I didn’t focus on that. I wanted to just keep working hard.”
The phone call he’d been waiting for came from Memphis manager Ben Johnson in the middle of night.
“I was sleeping,” Arozarena said, “so when they called me, he woke me up. At the end of the call I was like, ‘Is this real or is this a dream?’ So I called him back.”
Johnson assured him that it was real.
“I knew I was doing a good job,” Arozarena said. “I couldn’t control when called me up.”
Lane Thomas got the start in center field against the Royals, but Arozarena could be in the lineup as early as Wednesday night, when the cross-state rivals conclude their season series.
“I mean they both can play center which is good,” Shildt said, “because you have two guys that can do multiple things. Clearly, Lane has played well here and is acclimated here. The opportunity for Randy will come up for him to play in the future. Both of them have skill sets, going with their legs, their arm, their bats and you know, we’ll get Randy in there soon enough.”
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