ST. LOUIS — For Yadier Molina, the wounds remain fresh.
Molina, the St. Louis Cardinals' catcher, cringed Monday when asked about the team's loss to the San Francisco Giants in the National League Championship Series in October.
The Cardinals led the best-of-series 3-1, but the Giants took the final three, advanced to the World Series and defeated Detroit.
"It was a bad taste for us," Molina said at the team's annual Winter Warm-Up. "I can't wait to start the season. For me, my personal opinion, I want to get it done this year. Last year, we were so close. We didn't finish strong. Hopefully, this year we can close it out."
Molina would rather look ahead than behind. The Cardinals are expected to contend with Cincinnati for supremacy in an NL Central race that could also include Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. Cincinnati won the division by nine games over the Cardinals in 2012.
"We've got a great core of guys. We've got good guys over here," said Molina, who finished fourth in the MVP balloting. "Last year, nobody expected us to be in the position we were. That shows you we have great guys over here, good players that come ready to play every day. I guarantee you we're going to have a good season --even better than last year."
Molina unloaded last season in the first-year of his new contract, setting career-highs in average (.315), runs scored (65), home runs (22), RBIs (76), on-base percentage (.373), slugging percentage (.501) and stolen bases (12).
Can he be even better in 2013?
"I put pressure on myself," Molina said. "I've been training so hard since December. Last year, I did the same thing. (But) every year is different, so you have to prepare yourself for a new year. This year, hopefully I can have the best year of my career."
Molina can't wait to be around his brother, Bengie, every day. Bengie, a former catcher, will be the Cardinals' assistant hitting instructor, working under John Mabry, who replaced Mark McGwire when McGwire bolted for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"It's going to be awesome," Yadier Molina said. "Bengie's a great guy to have on your side. He knows about hitting, too. He's got experience, so it's going to be a good help for our team."
"Bengie was a good hitter," he said. "Bengie developed himself as a good hitter, just like Yadi has. You can never have too many Molinas on your team. That's a good thing. It's a great baseball family.
"What Bengie did breaking down films for pitchers, we're going to try to flip-flop that and have him break them down for hitters. It's an important part, to know how pitchers are getting hitters out. What better person to have than a (former) catcher."
Bengie Molina batted .274 with 144 home runs in 13 big-league seasons. He wasn't a patient hitter, coaxing just 208 walks in 5,159 plate appearances. He never walked more than 27 times in a season.
"He wasn't a power hitter," Yadier Molina said. "He's more like a using-the-gap kind of hitter. That's what you want to teach your kid, to use the gap. I feel that he brings that to our team --instead of pulling the ball and trying to hit homers."
Bengie, 38, was the brother who taught Yadier the most about baseball. Another brother, 37-year-old Jose, is a backup catcher for the Tampa Bay Rays.
"He was a hard-working guy," Yadier said of Bengie. "He taught me a lot of things about that. You've got to prepare yourself during the offseason so you can have a good season."
Yadier Molina said Bengie does have limitations.
"Bengie's a smart guy," Yadier said. "He knows about baseball in every respect. He knows about defense. He knows about hitting. I don't know about running. (Maybe) I can teach him. I'm faster than him."
Bengie almost signed with the Cardinals as a free agent prior to the 2011 season, but the deal never materialized. Instead, he retired.
"They were pretty close to signing Bengie two years ago," Yadier said. "I don't know what happened. They decided not to. I would have loved to play with him as the backup."
Molina and Cardinals teammate Carlos Beltran will play for their native Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic on March 2-19.
"Every time you have a chance to play for your country, it's a great honor," Molina said. "It's going to be good for me and for my family. Just to be there and wear 'Puerto Rico' on my chest is going to be a great honor."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.