St. Louis Cardinals "Captain", catcher Yadier Molina will suit up Wednesday to catch starter Miles Mikolas. The squad game today will be a full nine innings. However, Molina is not expected to be behind the plate for the full game scheduled. More than likely, two or three innings for his second Spring appearance in squad games on the backfield of Roger Dean complex.
Early in the Cardinals Spring camp, it was reported that both Molina (knee) and LF Marcell Ozuna (shoulder) had been cleared for full duty. Even though, the Cardinals Way of precaution and slowly returning players to a full schedule on the field after surgeries is a norm. Especially in Spring play. No need to rush.
Ozuna has already been in the line-up as DH. Molina expected to follow suit in coming games in the near future. ETA for his return behind the plate in the Cardinals Spring games is March 14 against the New York Mets at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.
His first appearance was for starter Adam Wainwright last week which Molina didn't catch long. Something not quite right and per Molina, "Didn't feel quite right". His rehab has gone well, but the prolonged 'squat' is hard on a knee that is in good condition. A new dimension to test the waters, so to speak.
But, he's ready to go again and I'm sure updates will come soon after. Personally, happy to hear the news.
CARDINALS CATCHER FRANCISCO PENA INJURED
Prior to the Cardinals Spring camp the organization still had not announced a back-up catcher for Molina. Francisco Pena, back-up catcher to Molina in 2018, was resigned to a minor league contract. He has been released into free agency at the beginning of the off-season. And, summations made he would again earn the back-up position for 2019. He was a very solid back-up for Molina last season in his 58 game appearances with 23 of those being complete games.
February 27, 2019, Cardinals sign FA catcher Matt Wieters to a minor league contract. The 32 year old ten year veteran, comes to the Cardinals. Four time All Star, MVP contender and a two time Golden Glove winner. Also, his arrival moved Pena back to #3 catcher on the Cardinals Spring player chart. Two-fold, Wieters is a very good signing. I feel with Wieters experience and very real potential 'pop' at the plate, a solid addition for our Cardinals.
Both had been told if they did not make the Opening Day roster, they would be able to choose to become a free agent. And competition has been tough between the two. Neither wears 'rose-colored glasses' of expectation in their future role with the Cardinals. They are fully aware of Molina's competitiveness and tenacity in regular season play. They both hold a great deal of respect for the 15 year veteran Cardinals MVP. They realize the knowledge they are able to gain only benefits their own future.
At the plate this Spring, Pena holds a .357 BA/.786 OPS with 3 RBI in 14 at-bats. Wieters, 4 AB/1-2B/.250 BA/.900 OPS with drawing one walk. Yes, he has an eye for the pitch. And, following Molina last week in a squad game - he punched out a solo shot behind Molina's two-run homer.
Now, and unfortunately, Pena sustained injury in Tuesday's game against the Philadelphia Phillies.
He was replaced in the game after he sustained injury at the plate during the seventh inning yesterday. A left oblique injury which will take him out of play for the next 10-15 days.
Per Derrick Goold Twitter via RotoWorld News: "Yadier Molina will serve as the club's starting catcher for the 15th consecutive season, with recent free agent addition Matt Wieters backing him up."
With Pena being low man on the catcher totem-pole, and the above statement made. Does Pena begin to pack his bags? Will he eventually choose FA or return to the Memphis Triple-A Redbirds on the chance he would be called up during the upcoming season.
Wieters (1 Yr/$912,900 MiLB contract) has some to gain being a part of the Opening Day roster. He will realize $1.5 M/1 Yr for being in the majors. Along with performance bonuses that may add up to $500,000 to the deal - $100,000 each level for 40-50-60-70-80 games played.
PENA'S FUTURE POSSIBILITY
FYI ~ The Kansas City Royals have lost the extreme service of their catcher, Salvador Perez, for the entire 2019 season. After confirmation of a second opinion sought, he will undergo Tommy John surgery today.
If the Royals were smart, in my opinion, they would definitely want to consider bringing Pena back into their fold. He played for the Royals two seasons, 2014-2015 making his debut May 20, 2014. They are familiar with his work ethic and solid play.
Whatever the future holds for Francisco Pena, I wish him the best. He did well for our St. Louis Cardinals.
Thanks you for reading.