JUPITER, Fla. -- Though Yadier Molina will be rehabbing his left thumb with an eye on the baseball calendar, the Cardinals have cautioned the veteran catcher against trying to rush back too quickly. Patience, general manager John Mozeliak said, could have a greater payoff than having Molina ready for Opening Day but still not at full strength.
"My take on this is he had one surgery. Then he had to have a second. The last thing you want to do is have a third, because that would be a problem," Mozeliak said. "I would just say that the way we have to look at this is we have to be patient. … I think a month from now we'll have a much better idea of where he's at."
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Molina's spring would be different had he not needed a repeat procedure to repair a torn thumb ligament in December. That left Molina's left hand in a hard cast until the start of this month, and he continues to wear a splint when he's not putting his thumb through strength exercises.
Molina likely won't catch until early March, and he won't hit until sometime later than that. Molina plans to push himself so that he can play on Opening Day. It may be the Cardinals, however, who rein in that enthusiasm.
"He's a competitive guy, and he wants to get this moving," Mozeliak said. "I'm just saying that from a club standpoint, we have to be patient with this."
Mozeliak also pointed to the flexibility the team has because of its early season schedule. Following their final Grapefruit League contest, the Cardinals have five open dates over the first 12 days in April. That means the Cardinals could extend Molina's rehab work without him having to miss many games.
The possibility of having Molina play at partial strength would be under consideration, Mozeliak said, only if the medical team is convinced that Molina could do no additional damage to his thumb by playing. The club would also have to weigh the potential benefits of having Molina behind the plate even if he isn't yet comfortable with his swing.
"The biggest thing is we have to eliminate any chances of compromise," Mozeliak said. "If hitting is going to do that or catching is going to do that, then we have to be patient. But if medically we can rule that out and just understand that he might not be putting up the numbers where we want, that's something that we'll cross when we get there."
The Cardinals have protection at the position with veteran Brayan Pena now on the roster. Behind him, Michael Ohlman and Eric Fryer will serve as additional depth.
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.