Yadi has cast removed, hopes to play Opening Day

Cardinals catcher begins process of strengthening left thumb

Yadi has cast removed, hopes to play Opening Day

JUPITER, Fla. -- With his hand free of the hard cast that immobilized it for the past two months, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina has begun the process of regaining strength in his left thumb. Now it's a matter of whether he can do so in time to take the field 48 days from now in Pittsburgh.

"That's what I want," said Molina, among several Cards who participated in a voluntary workout Monday. "That's my goal, obviously. We'll have to wait and see, but I'm going to try to do my best to be in the Opening Day lineup."

Spring Training information

The late recovery time frame was the result of Molina needing to have a second procedure on his left thumb in December, two months after undergoing surgery that was supposed to repair a torn ligament. That tear, which Molina sustained Sept. 20 and then played with during the postseason, did not heal properly the first time.

In an effort to ensure a successful second surgery, Molina afterward wore the cast longer. His hand will sit in a splint for the rest of the month, and then he hopes to resume catching shortly after that. Hitting will be the last to come.

"It's a little weak, a little weak right now," Molina said. "I'm still working on the strength, and hopefully pretty soon I'll feel normal. I have a pretty good idea of what I'm looking for for Opening Day, but right now I'm just trying to concentrate on getting the strength back in my hand. My whole body feels good. I'm just trying to concentrate on my hand."

Molina noted that his thumb feels much better now than it did two months after the first procedure. The stiffness and soreness he felt then prompted the veteran catcher to have his thumb reexamined and, ultimately, operated on again when doctors concluded that the ligament was still compromised.

"Hopefully this time," Molina added, "we got it right."

Because Molina has had no use of his hand for much of the offseason, his workouts were limited mostly to running and strengthening his lower body. He enters camp slimmer than he was at the end of last season, but also noticeably stronger than he was last spring after dropping more than 20 pounds.

Manager Mike Matheny said he will welcome Molina's participation -- even as a pseudo coach, of sorts -- early in camp, though he also wants Molina to focus on getting his necessary work in the trainer's room. Molina's only outdoor activity at the team's complex Monday was running sprints along the outfield track.

"Every second he's out there is good, unless that's the only time he can get with a certain trainer or doctor in here," Matheny said. "That's going to be dependent on the schedule, which we haven't completely defined yet. We'll try to get him out there as much as we can."

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.