ST. LOUIS Shortly before 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, a cluster of Cardinals fans walked down the sidewalk of South 8th Street toward Busch Stadium.
“Have you heard anything about Yadi?” a woman asked.
“Last I read, he was getting an MRI,” said a second woman, whose red dress had a No. 4 and the name ‘Molina’ plastered across its back.
That was the end of the brief exchange, because there really wasn’t much else to say. Yadier Molina, the Cardinals’ star catcher, had missed Saturday’s game with a sore right knee — the same knee that required surgery for a torn meniscus in 2007 then made Molina sit for the tail end of 2010. The new pain in the previously-troubled body part placed the team and its fans on the highest level of alert.
“Every time somebody doesn’t feel good, I have fear,” manager Mike Matheny said Saturday when announcing the news. And Cardinal nation took a big, collective gulp.
Sunday was less about the Marlins, whom the Cardinals beat 3-2, and more about Molina, who talked about the knee trouble for the first time. He said he has been experiencing discomfort for about a month, a pain usually limited to when he lunges forward to block a pitch. On Friday, it got worse. When he ran, it felt like he was getting stuck with a knife.
The catcher ensured there is no cause for concern. He said the MRI taken Saturday came back negative. He claimed a couple days of rest should be enough to clear up the pain, which he attributed as something catchers commonly have to deal with once in a while. He has already penciled in his return to the starting lineup for Tuesday.
“We found out it’s inflammation in my knee, but nothing serious,” Molina told the reporters who circled around his locker Sunday morning. “Just a couple days of rest, then back at it.
“Just inflammation,” Molina said. “Like I said, nothing serious.”
But when it comes to Molina, even a little threat is serious.
“It was definitely something that was worrisome, especially when it’s such a valuable piece of our team,” said Matheny, who agreed that the MRI result was as good as the team could have hoped for.
Molina has constructed an MVP-caliber season so far. He has maintained his reputation as the best defensive catcher in the league, and he is hitting better than ever. On Saturday, he was issued his fifth consecutive invite to the All-Star game.
Now, it’s reasonable to wonder if Molina will even participate in the New York celebration on July 16.
“If I can play Tuesday, I can play in the All-Star game,” he quipped.
Matheny didn’t sound so certain about that Tuesday timetable.
“I’ll give you guys this answer, probably every day,” the manager said. “We will wait and see, and continue to monitor how he is feeling, how he is progressing with the medical team.”
Maybe Molina could have played Sunday, like he said he would have if he had to. Maybe he will play Tuesday, like he says he will. But the catcher known for his disdain of the bench also seems to realize this: Forcing a few games in July isn’t in the best interest of a team looking to make a playoff run.
“Sometimes you need a couple days to rest,” Molina said. “Especially when the knee is feeling that way. It’s good to take two or three days off and come back.”
Molina is hurting, and that’s bad for the Cardinals. But an MRI that showed inflammation instead of a myriad of other potential problems is good news.
Molina should take it easy, and the city of St. Louis should start breathing again.
Its catcher says he’s going to be OK. Follow Ben Frederickson on Twitter (@Ben_Fred), or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org