Cards hopeful Molina can play in postseason

Catcher to wear splint on injured left thumb

Cards hopeful Molina can play in postseason

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina had his injured left thumb examined by a hand specialist on Monday afternoon.

It revealed that the ligament in his thumb is still injured, but the Cardinals were hopeful that Molina would be able to recover in time for the NLDS on Friday (5:30 p.m. CT, TBS).

"We are still optimistic that Yadier will be on our postseason roster," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said in a statement.

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Molina, who sustained a ligament tear in his left thumb during a play at the plate on Sept. 20, will be fitted with a splint that the Cardinals hope will allow him to hit and catch even as he heals. Molina will begin baseball activities wearing that splint this week to see how his hand responds.

A St. Louis-based hand specialist determined that the ligament is still damaged, but had shown improvement in the week since Molina was last examined.

The Cardinals do not have to set their 25-man roster for the National League Division Series until Friday, so they have time to further evaluate Molina's readiness. The team has scheduled workouts at Busch Stadium for Wednesday and Thursday, and the Cards have given players the option of also coming to the ballpark for work on Tuesday, which it seems likely Molina would do.

Without Molina, the Cardinals would enter the postseason with Tony Cruz as the primary catcher. Travis Tartamella would likely serve as Cruz's backup.

Molina was poised to set career highs in starts and innings caught before the thumb injury knocked him out for the final two weeks of the regular season. Though he has refrained from hitting or catching since the injury, Molina has remained diligent with his conditioning work so he'd be ready to play as soon as he receives clearance from the hand doctor.

At the time of the injury, Molina was hitting .270/.310/.350 with 23 doubles, four homers and 61 RBIs. Even with the time missed, he caught more innings (1149 2/3) and started more games behind the plate (131) than any other NL catcher. Under his guidance, the Cardinals posted the Majors' lowest team ERA.

The Cardinals value Molina's postseason experience, as he has appeared in more playoff games (86) than anyone else on the roster. Molina has hit .290/.344/.375 in 19 postseason series. He missed the final three games of the Cardinals' NL Championship Series against the Giants last season due to an oblique injury.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.