Cards catcher likely to miss most of spring; Grichuk expected to be ready after sports hernia operation
By Jenifer Langosch
ST. LOUIS -- Two months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb, Yadier Molina had the same procedure again on Tuesday after it was determined that his thumb was not healing properly.
The need for a second surgery means that Molina will not be fully cleared for the start of Spring Training, general manager John Mozeliak confirmed on Wednesday. The Cardinals do expect him to be ready by Opening Day, Mozeliak added, but that will ultimately be determined by how quickly Molina can regain strength in that thumb.
To try to expedite the healing and limit mobility, Molina will wear a full cast for the next several weeks.
"I think by the end of January, the cast should be off and then he'll begin his strengthening exercises throughout the month of February and March," Mozeliak said. "The biggest question will be: When will he swing a bat? They don't feel like any of this should affect how he catches or when he can catch, but to have him ready by Opening Day, [swinging] will really be the test."
Molina recently informed the Cardinals' medical staff that he had been feeling thumb discomfort for a few weeks. An MRI exam taken last week showed that the ligament's elasticity was almost back to where it was after Molina's initial injury on Sept. 20.
That injury, which Molina suffered while making a swipe tag of Anthony Rizzo at home plate, cost the catcher the final two weeks of the regular season and limited his productivity -- and eventually, his availability -- in the postseason.
While the Cardinals remain optimistic that Molina's recovery won't extend into the 2016 regular season, Mozeliak said he will consider further fortifying the organization's catching depth to keep the club protected. The Cardinals already signed veteran backstop Brayan Pena to a two-year contract. He would assume the primary catching role should Molina not be ready to take the field on Opening Day.
"We'll sort of exhaust what's out there still," Mozeliak said. "We just have to be vigilant on how we look at this between now and Spring Training."
Any addition would likely be made under a Minor League contract. The Cardinals also have catcher Mike Ohlman already on their 40-man roster.
Molina's surgery came one week after outfielder Randal Grichuk had an operation to repair a sports hernia, though his recovery won't be nearly as extensive as Molina's. Mozeliak said that the club expects Grichuk to be fully healed by the start of Spring Training, and the GM added that Grichuk could be cleared to resume his workouts as early as next week.
"We don't see this as something that's going to slow him up," Mozeliak said.
After trading Jon Jay to the Padres and losing Peter Bourjos on waivers, the Cardinals have committed to giving Grichuk an opportunity to open the season as the team's starting center fielder. But while the Cards see notable power potential from the 24-year-old, they also await proof that he can stay healthy for a full season.
Grichuk has been injury-prone throughout his brief pro career, dealing with a back injury (twice), elbow injury and sports hernia just in 2015 alone.
"He's a very athletic player, and how he's used and how he's preparing is something, I think, we have to be on the forefront of getting him ready to do," Mozeliak said. "His past injuries have not always been on the field."