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Brayan Pena to disabled list again

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Knee soreness sends him back to the disabled list . Albert Rosario called up.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

After hurting his knee in Spring Training, Brayan Pena had surgery, missed the first few months of the season and then spent the full 20 days in a minor league rehab assignment. After the rehab assignment was over, Pena returned to the Cardinals, getting into a few games, but did not look great behind the plate. There was apparently a reason for this, as Pena’s knee is sore and he will be returning to the disabled list. Alberto Rosario is being called up to replace Pena on the 25-man roster.

There is likely to be much hand-wringing over this development. In order to put Pena on the 25-man roster to begin with, the team had to designated Eric Fryer for assignment. Fryer was out of options and could not have been sent to Memphis without passing through waivers, and he did not make it through waivers as Pittsburgh claimed him and then Fryer helped beat the Cardinals last night. While it might be nice to still have Fryer in the Cardinals organization, the backup catcher is a nominal position on the Cardinals rarely racking up enough playing time to matter.

While it is certainly unfortunate that Brayan Pena is still hurt and not quite ready to be Yadier Molina’s backup, the real issue is that Yadier Molina has not had enough rest this season, or really any of the past few seasons, and Pena might have represented someone who could cut into Molina’s playing time, even if just a little bit. Fryer was not that player, and Alberto Rosario is unlikely to be that player.

Alberto Rosario is a 29-year old career minor leaguer. Rosario began his career with Angels system back in 2006 and eventually made the Triple-A team back in the 2012 season. He then spent the 2013 season in the Red Sox organization and 2014 in the Dodgers organization before splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A for the Cardinals last year.

He hasn’t had more than 200 plate appearances in a season since 2012 with the Angels, but was getting decent playing time in Memphis this year. He’s never really hit very well, and in 139 plate appearances this season he has a .281/.323/.325 line without any home runs. With the All-Star break just five games away, it seems unlikely that Rosario will get a start anytime soon.

While Pena’s performance did not inspire confidence, that he is not healthy is an unfortunate development for Yadier Molina’s workload. Molina has caught 636.1 innings this season, the most in baseball by more than 50 innings. The difference in innings between first-place Molina and second-place Wilson Ramos is the same as the difference between Ramos and tenth-place Yan Gomes. Molina turns 34 next week, and needs more days off. Pena was supposed to provide those days off, and now Molina is not likely to get them.

If the Cardinals still had Eric Fryer, he still would not playing. While Pena did not look good in his brief stint with the Cardinals, there is still some hope that more time and rest might make him a catcher that Mike Matheny might trust to give time off for Molina, assuming it is Matheny’s decision to make.