St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina left Sunday's game against the Chicago Cubs with a thumb injury. The initial diagnosis was that Molina suffered a "left thumb sprain," according to the Cardinals' official Twitter account. When combined with the fact that Molina left a one-run game in the top of the ninth due to the injury, the diagnosis was ominous. Manager Mike Matheny's postgame comments didn't help much either.
MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch reported from the visitors' clubhouse at Wrigley:
"Him coming out of the game right there, it took some talking to do it because he wants to stay in and felt like he could still catch," Matheny explained. "But I didn't want to see him with a bat in his hand. Better chance to let somebody come in and take the at-bat."
Matheny described himself as "concerned" and added that he is "anxious to hear what the doctors come up with." Molina's left thumb has been bothering him for some time simply due to the normal wear and tear of the catching position.
Just so we're clear:
- Molina's left thumb had been bothering long before he tagged Rizzo out on Sunday's game-saving play.
- Even so, Matheny allowed Molina to stay in the game to catch Trevor Rosenthal's 100-mph fastballs despite the injury to his glove hand's thumb.
- Matheny drew the line, however, at Molina swinging a bat with his injured thumb.
- Molina's injury was concerning to the manager.
Worrisome to say the least.
On Monday in St. Louis, Molina underwent an MRI on his injured left thumb. And on Monday afternoon, general manager John Mozielak informed the media of Molina's diagnosis. Chris Hrabe of KMOX was on hand at Busch Stadium and tweeted the news:
Mozeliak says MRI for Molina shows slight tear in left thumb. Hopeful he can return this season. Will reevaluate next 5-7 days. #stlcards— Chris Hrabe (@chrabe) September 21, 2015
Langosch tweeted a short video of Mozeliak's comments regarding Molina's status:
This is undeniably bad news, but it could be worse. Molina could have had a full tear of a ligament in his left thumb, one that needed corrective surgery (similar to the injury he suffered last year to his right thumb) straightaway. But he doesn't. There's still hope that he might be physically able to play in the postseason.
Of course, being physically able to play and being physically able to play well are two different levels of health. There's also a difference between being physically capable of fielding one's position and swing the bat productively. If the multi-time Platinum Glove recipient is able to play in October, Molina's ability to swing the bat may very well be compromised. After all, surely there's a reason Matheny was more worried about Molina taking cuts on Sunday than catching Rosenthal. We might wind up firmly in that unquantifiable zone of catcher game-planning and game-calling to justify Molina's presence in the lineup. Time will tell.
For now, the Cards are down to two physically fit catchers: Tony Cruz and Ed Easley, the team's second choice as backup to the backup, behind Cody Stanley, who tested positive for PEDs and received a suspension because of it. Consequently, El Birdos have called up their third catcher this month:
#STLCards purchased contract of Travis Tartamella for catching depth, designated Xavier Scruggs for assignment.— Chris Hrabe (@chrabe) September 21, 2015
The 27-year-old has a career minor-league slash line of .197/.251/.266. Seriously. His career OPS on the farm is .517. For Memphis this year, Tartamella notched 131 plate appearances and batted .203/.236/.246, which adds up to a .482 OPS. "Catching depth" may be a charitable description of what Tartamella represents. If he gets into a game before season's end, it'll most likely be due to things having gone very, very well for the Cardinals or very, very badly.