Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is being considered day-to-day with an abdominal strain and has not been ruled out of returning in the National League Championship Series against the Giants, manager Mike Matheny said Monday.
Molina’s availability for the series appeared questionable after he exited Game 2 on Sunday in obvious pain following his sixth-inning at-bat. But he played catch during the Cardinals’ off-day workout at AT&T Park on Monday afternoon and surprised Matheny with “how well he was able to throw the ball.”
“The doctors are going to continue to work on him, but right now he’s going to be active on our roster,” Matheny said.
In fact, Matheny did not rule out Molina being available as early as Tuesday in Game 3 in a limited capacity. Molina has not swung a bat, but Matheny said he could consider using Molina as a late-game defensive replacement.
“There’s no reason why we couldn’t do that, from what I saw,” Matheny said.
Asked if he could play in Game 3, Molina said: “I’m going to try.”
Molina said he first felt the injury when he singled in his first at-bat Sunday. He came up in the fourth with two runners on and nobody out, and elected to bunt, an indication of the discomfort he was feeling. In the sixth, he hit a double-play ground ball and did not leave the plate area, doubling over in pain.
“It was getting worse and worse, and then the last at-bat, the last swing was painful,” said Molina. “I couldn’t run, and after that I had to say something.”
That Molina is even day-to-day is remarkable. An abdominal strain sidelined Giants outfielder Michael Morse for six weeks in the second half of this season. Matheny said he originally “didn’t think there was any possibility, having (had) that injury myself, knowing how hard it was just to throw.”
Matheny did not say who will start at catcher for the Cardinals on Tuesday. St. Louis has two backup catchers on its NLCS roster – Tony Cruz, who started 35 games for the Cardinals this season, and veteran A.J. Pierzynski, who was not on the team’s division series roster but was added for this series.
Pierzynski played one season for the Giants in 2004, and it’s remembered as tumultuous. Matheny joked Monday that Pierzynski is “looking forward to his warm reception in San Francisco on Tuesday.”
▪ The Giants also held an optional workout Monday afternoon after choosing to fly back from St. Louis in the morning rather than right after Game 2. Manager Bruce Bochy said that decision was made before the series, when it was announced that Game 3 would have a 1 p.m. start.
“Instead of getting in here at 4, maybe 5 in the morning (Monday), we’ll just keep them in a normal routine,” Bochy said.
▪ Morse reached base on a pinch-hit infield single in his first postseason at-bat and third overall since Aug. 31. Bochy, though, said despite the inconsistency of the Giants’ offense lately, he didn’t foresee shaking things up by inserting Morse into the starting lineup on Tuesday.
“It’s a pretty nice weapon to have just to come off the bench, too,” Bochy said. “I think (Travis Ishikawa) has done a pretty good job out there (in left field), and he’s (had) some pretty good at-bats, and (Brandon) Belt is playing well (at first base). I don’t see (Morse) starting right now.”
▪ Bochy reiterated his faith in right-handed reliever Hunter Strickland, who has allowed four home runs this postseason – all to left-handed batters – in four appearances.
“We may have to tweak things,” Bochy said. “But this kid’s still going to be part of our sixth, seventh innings.”
Strickland surrended a go-ahead homer Sunday to Matt Adams in the eighth inning in Game 2. After laying off of three consecutive sliders, Adams hit a 97-mph fastball from Strickland into the right-field seats.
Asked if there’s any possibility he is tipping pitches, Strickland said: “We’re going to go look at some video. Hopefully not, but if we are, we’re going to make the adjustment and get better.”