Molina likely to resume swinging this week

Martinez throws bullpen session, expects to make first spring start soon

Molina likely to resume swinging this week

JUPITER, Fla. -- With his catching work going smoothly, Yadier Molina may reach as many as two more rehab benchmarks this week, manager Mike Matheny said on Sunday.

The first would be picking up a bat to take dry swings, something Molina has yet to do while regaining strength in his surgically-repaired left thumb. Throughout Molina's recovery, the Cardinals have noted that Molina's readiness for the start of the season would be tied primarily to how his hand could handle the stress of swinging.

While he works through that process, the Cardinals will also consider having Molina appear in a Grapefruit League game within the next week. Though he would not take any swings in such an appearance, it would allow Molina an opportunity to increase his exposure behind the plate.

With four weeks remaining until Opening Day, the Cardinals remain cautiously optimistic that Molina will be a part of their Opening Day lineup in Pittsburgh.

Worth noting:

Carlos Martinez threw a bullpen session Sunday morning and is expected to make his first Grapefruit League start this week. Under that schedule, the Cardinals anticipate Martinez getting a sufficient number of spring starts to have him ready for the beginning of the season. Because of the plethora of early off-days sprinkled into the regular-season schedule, the Cardinals will have the flexibility to leave Martinez behind in Florida for additional work when they break camp, if he needs it.

Outlook: Martinez, SP, STL

• Matheny announced that right-hander Mike Leake will make his Cardinals debut on Wednesday, when the Cardinals host the Marlins at 12:05 p.m. CT. With the start, Leake will become the fourth member of the Cardinals' projected starting rotation to pitch in a Grapefruit League game.

• Right-handers Tyler Waldron and Silfredo Garcia will continue their rehab programs in Minor League camp after being reassigned on Sunday. The two non-roster invitees were slowed by shoulder soreness early in camp.

• Reliever Mitch Harris, who had his spring program modified to account for some muscle soreness, is progressing, Matheny said. The Cardinals expect him to appear in a Grapefruit League game soon. Tim Cooney, who briefly shut down his throwing program due to shoulder soreness, has resumed playing catch but is further behind than Harris in that build-up process.

• Matheny wouldn't project when Matt Holliday would again attempt to make his Grapefruit League debut, but the Cardinals had to be encouraged to see Holliday participating in full workouts on Sunday morning. Holliday was set to appear in his first spring game on Saturday -- at first base, nonetheless -- before an episode of lower back tightness necessitated his removal from the lineup.

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.