PITTSBURGH -- Yadier Molina, who suffered a slight ligament tear in his left thumb on Sept. 20, will not return to the field before the end of the regular season, the Cardinals announced after Molina's visit with a hand specialist on Monday.
It is possible, but not certain, that Molina could be back for the postseason, though that also might depend on how deep a playoff run the Cardinals make. Much like Allen Craig was two years ago, when he was healing from a September foot injury, Molina is up against the clock.
"Obviously, we were hoping for better news," general manager John Mozeliak said. "But in the scheme of things, we're just going to have to remain patient. Depending on where we end up in October could dictate whether there is still a possibility. He's making a progression, but it's a severe injury. Trying to have it be turned around in a less-than-required time is tough."
Molina will keep his thumb in a splint for the next week and be re-evaluated by the doctor next Sunday or Monday. At that time, the Cardinals expect to have a better feel for whether Molina would be an option for the team's first postseason series -- or maybe even at all.
"We always hold out hope," Mozeliak said. "He's the type of player that's worth holding out hope for. He's been a key member of this organization for many years, and what he means to this team and what he's done for this club has been huge. Our hope is that maybe he can still contribute. But clearly, it's not going to be this week.
"You have to get him to a point of where strength can be added. And where he was last week to where he was today, it was very little improvement that was made."
Molina was on track to catch more innings this season than in any other of his 12-year career before injuring his thumb while applying a tag on Anthony Rizzo during a play at the plate against the Cubs. The Cardinals were immediately encouraged that surgery would not be required, but there is no certainty as to how quickly the necessary healing can take place.
Mozeliak did not want to speculate on whether the club would consider having Molina catch postseason games even if he is still compromised on the offensive end. One of the biggest concerns is whether Molina can properly grip a bat.
"It's really about being able to get stronger and add strength to it," Mozeliak said. "And when you have instability in the ligament, it's hard to gain strength because of that instability. Right now, it's just one of those things where the best thing you can do is be patient. That's all we can do."
Tony Cruz has started eight straight games, including Monday's, in Molina's absence. If he opens the postseason as the team's primary catcher, the Cardinals would carry either Ed Easley or Travis Tartamella as a backup to Cruz.