ST. LOUIS — Yadier Molina was forthright when asked about his reaction to the news Thursday morning that he would be sidelined eight to 12 weeks with a torn ligament in his right thumb.
"I almost cried," Molina said. "For me, being out this long is frustrating. But it is what it is. ... Mentally, it's so frustrating."
The St. Louis Cardinals' All-Star catcher will undergo surgery Friday. His doctor, Charles Goldfarb, told Molina the thumb will require five weeks to heal, followed by rehabilitation.
Molina injured the thumb Wednesday night on a second-inning slide into third base. He caught the third inning, but asked out of the game after being unable to grip a bat.
"When I felt it, right away I knew something was wrong with it," Molina said. "It didn't feel good, so that's why I decided to come out of the game. It's bad; it's a bad feeling. You want to be here and be there with the team, playing. It's just a bad feeling."
Molina's injury comes as the Cardinals are climbing back into the NL Central race. They began Thursday two games behind first-place Milwaukee, whom they will play this weekend at Miller Park.
"It isn't one guy," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said, attempting to shake off the news of Molina's extended absence. "This is a team sport. We have a group of guys that are able to go do what we need to do as a group. We need to stay the course, just keep playing the game."
While he will be unable to play, Molina still hopes to make contributions to the team, albeit in a role of cheerleader and instructor.
"I will be in the dugout with the team," said Molina, who turns 32 on Sunday. "I'm part of the team. I'm not playing, but I'm going to be there to support them."
Tony Cruz, batting .255 with two doubles and eight RBIs in 21 games, will get the bulk of the playing time in Molina's absence. Audry Perez, 25, was recalled from Class AAA Memphis to be Cruz's backup. Perez was batting .288 with 10 doubles, two home runs and 21 RBIs in 44 games.
"I've got great confidence in Tony and Perez," Molina said. "They know what they're doing. I've got 100 percent confidence in them. I know they're going to be good. I'm going to try to do my best to come back as soon as possible. It all depends on how the rehab goes. Hopefully, it's seven or eight weeks."
Any amount of time is too much for the Cardinals in regards to Molina, who for years has been their heart and soul.
"It's unfortunate, obviously, when you lose a player with his skill set and leadership. It's tough," General Manager John Mozeliak said. "But the game doesn't stop; you keep going."
Mozeliak said good teams are measured, in part, by how they're able to handle adversity, which is what the Cardinals face without everyday performances from Molina.
"I think every year has its hurdles," Mozeliak said. "You end up being defined on how you handle that. This team's been together for a lot of ups and downs. They've seen players get lost for the season. Sometimes it's early, sometimes it's mid, sometimes it's late. But they all know they have a job to do and they'll continue to do it.
"Obviously, a player like Yadi, who is so much a part of this club, it certainly hurts. They all feel for him, but we've got to play tonight."
Molina, a six-time Rawlings Gold Glove Award-winner who has thrown out 49 percent of attempted base-stealers (17-for-35), is batting .287 with seven home runs and 30 RBIs in 83 games.
Fans voted Molina the starting catcher for the National League in the All-Star Game on Tuesday night at Target Field in Minneapolis. But Molina said he probably will not attend the game.
"I've been thinking about it, but I don't think so," Molina said. "I haven't decided yet, but we'll see."
Molina's starting spot will be filled by Milwaukee's Jonathan Lucroy, who finished second in the fan balloting. Matheny, who will manage the NL team, indicated another catcher likely will be added to the All-Star roster to provide depth.
"To go in light on catching is probably not a real good idea," Matheny said.
Mozeliak said the Cardinals may look outside the organization to add catching help. Two veterans, John Buck and A.J. Pierzynski, were designated for assignment this week --Buck by the Seattle Mariners, Pierzynski by the Boston Red Sox.
"We'll evaluate what's out there and see if there's something that makes sense for us," Mozeliak said. "From a standpoint of trying to replace (Molina), that's just not even a logical question. What you end up doing is finding a stopgap."
Molina reiterated his faith in Cruz, 27.
"Tony's smart," he said. "He's a good player, he's a good hitter, a good catcher. It's his time."
Mozeliak is confident about Cruz's ability.
"Obviously, he's had a great mentor," Mozeliak said. "Learning from our manager, Matheny, and working under Yadi for these years should prepare him for this kind of duty. We'll see what we have, but I certainly have a lot of confidence in him."
Matheny expects Molina to get edgy in his time on the disabled list --the fourth of his career. Previously, the longest amount of time Molina has missed was 14 games with a sprained right knee last season.
"The DL, in general, for guys that just love to compete, is a miserable place to be," Matheny said. "This isn't going to be easy for Yadi. He's going to go stir-crazy, without question."