Frustration has been building throughout the roster of the St. Louis Cardinals in recent weeks and the most notably frustrated player might be Yadier Molina. Molina has so much responsibility with the pitching staff and orchestrating defensive shifts. He also has to focus on his usual stellar defense and strong offensive production. When every aspect of the team appears to be under-performing, the hard-working Molina takes it pretty hard.
Molina has been in the top ten players in terms of number of games caught for the last five seasons. The longest breaks he has had from behind the plate,in that span, are a single 15-day stint on the disabled list last season and a five game suspension in 2011 after with an umpire about balls and strikes. So when Cardinal’s manager Mike Matheny, a former catcher, saw an opportunity to rest his All-Star backstop he took it.
The Cardinals took two of three from the first-place Toronto Blue Jays over the weekend, including two shutouts. The series was the first time since Molina’s stint on the DL last year that he did not catch at least one game of a series. With a day off on Monday and one more AL series on the schedule this week, it would be possible for Molina to take a full week off from catching.
Molina has little experience getting that much rest, but in the two instances that it has happened in the past few years, Molina jumped back into the action with good team success.
In 2011, Molina returned to a second-place Cardinals team that trailed Milwaukee by five games in the Central and Atlanta by 6 1/2 games in the Wild Card. In the 30 games following Molina’s return, the Cardinals won 18 and lost just 12. In that time Molina hit .305, clubbed five of his 14 home runs and piled up 21 of his 65 RBI on the season. The Cardinals were just 3 1/2 games back, 30 games after Molina’s return from the DL, and were setting up for another playoff run down the stretch.
In 2013, Molina returned from the DL on August 15 with the Cardinals trailing the Pittsburgh Pirates by two games in the Central. In the 30 games following his trip to the DL, Molina hit .276 and slugged four of his 12 home runs. The real impact in 2013 was the increase in win percentage down the stretch. The Cardinals won 20 of their next 30 games that Molina appeared in, putting the Cardinals back into first in the Central. They would earn the games best record by the end of the season, and Molina was key to their playoff run.
With Molina in the lineup the Cardinals have one of the best defensive catchers in the history of the game, but they also have one of the best hitting catchers in the game today. With the Cardinals still looking to make their first run of the season, Molina returning behind the plate, after some rest, may provide just the spark they need.