Notes: Molina in the family business

Notes: Molina in the family business

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Three Major League catchers emerge from the same family in Puerto Rico, and all three own World Series championship rings: Bengie and Jose Molina from the 2002 Angels, kid brother Yadier Molina from the 2006 Cardinals.

What are the odds of that happening?

"I don't know," middle brother Jose said, "but it is pretty amazing when you think about it.

"It's a lot of hard work -- and I guess we've just been in the right place at the right time. I was [in St. Louis] for the last three games of the World Series last year, and it was pretty emotional for me when Yadier played great and they won. It's your blood, your family. He worked really hard to become the player he is. I'm very proud of him -- and Bengie."

Jose Molina, hitting .217 this spring in 23 at-bats, appears headed for an active backup role again for the Angels behind Mike Napoli, with Jeff Mathis trying to muscle into the picture.

Molina, 31, played 29 games for the champion Angels of 2002 in support of workhorse Bengie Molina, who caught 122. Jose had his busiest of seven seasons in 2006, appearing in 78 games with 225 at-bats. He hit .240 with a .369 slugging percentage.

"My best [quality] is defense," he said. "Defense is what got me here. I work every day on my hitting, but defense is my strength."

The staff ERA with Molina behind the plate for 603 1/3 innings last year was 3.98. With Napoli catching 716 1/3 innings, the team's ERA was 3.76. Mathis caught 133 innings, with a 5.82 staff ERA.

The catching trade is second nature to Jose Molina, who has been bouncing around behind the plate since he began going to school in his hometown, Bayamon.

"Our dad, Benjamin, played back home and taught us from a young age," he said. "I started playing when I was 5 or 6. Bengie came first. He played other positions, but the only way to sign was to become a catcher. I watched him and was a catcher all the time. Yadier watched both of us and learned a lot."

Do the three brothers -- Bengie is now with San Francisco -- compare catching notes during the season?

"It's never about the game when we talk -- it's about how they're doing, how I'm doing, family stuff," Jose said. "We try not to touch the baseball stuff."

Spring Training
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Old friends: Gary Matthews Jr. took advantage of a good buddy when he launched his third homer of the spring on Tuesday night, a two-run blast off the Padres' Chris Young. Matthews and Young were teammates in Texas and spent hours talking about their shared passion: the NBA. Matthews is a die-hard Lakers fan, whereas Young pulls for his hometown Mavericks. ... Ervin Santana (5 1/3 innings, nine hits, seven runs, six earned) was rocked for two-run homers by Terrmel Sledge and Geoff Blum, who also doubled home two runs. Brian Giles doubled twice, and Mike Cameron also smoked a double against Santana. It was the first time this spring that the young right-hander has been hit hard, after four solid outings. ... Chone Figgins muscled up against Young for his second spring homer, and Howie Kendrick narrowly missed leaving the yard on a 400-foot sacrifice fly handled by Cameron.

Triple or nothing: The Angels turned their second triple play of the spring in highly unconventional fashion. With runners on first and third in the first inning, Santana struck out Josh Bard. Napoli threw to shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who threw to Casey Kotchman for the second out. Kotchman then caught Brian Giles wandering off third with a peg to Figgins for the third out. Kotchman started the other triple play, in Tucson on March 8. ... Napoli was back in the lineup, having regained his strength after having wisdom teeth pulled.

Another Colon test: Bartolo Colon continues his march toward a rotation spot when he goes to the mound on Wednesday for a 45-pitch live batting practice session. His rotator cuff tear from last July has not been a problem thus far, and his next big challenge is expected to be a camp game in anticipation of a possible Cactus League start before the Angels break camp. ... Jered Weaver, also on the rehab trail after a bout with biceps tendinitis, threw 45 pitches -- all fastballs and changeups -- in a simulated camp game on Monday and declared himself on schedule for a rotation slot by mid-April. ... In Monday's camp game against Oakland's Triple-A club, Kelvim Escobar struck out nine and walked one in five innings, giving up four hits and three runs, one earned.

Up next: Southpaw Joe Saunders, who experienced stiffness in his left forearm after his start on Sunday and was shut down for a few days, will be on a 75-pitch limit on Wednesday in his start against the Diamondbacks at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Saunders figures as the No. 5 starter until Colon returns to the rotation.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.