Catcher Yadier Molina is ahead of schedule in his recovery from July 11 surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb.
The St. Louis Cardinals' All-Star caught Adam Wainwright's bullpen session Thursday.
"He had his brace on and was able to throw the ball back," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "It sounds like he, as expected, is pushing this as fast as the medical team will allow. And the doctors allowing him to do things like catch that bullpen and play a little catch ... That's encouraging to see."
Molina, however, still hasn't gripped a bat or ball without the support of the brace.
"We can't get too far ahead, but it's encouraging to see him out here doing some baseball activities," Matheny said. "And he's in terrific shape. He's been really getting after it in the weightroom and he's staying physically fit."
Matheny said he expects Molina to be able to throw before he's able to swing the bat. Molina declined comment Thursday, but said through a team spokesman that he would discuss his recovery with reporters on Friday.
On the 2-4 trip
It was anything but a good road trip to Baltimore and Miami for the Cardinals, who lost two of three in each series.
Still, St. Louis began Thursday trailing Milwaukee by a scant two games in a bunched-up NL Central.
But Matheny has been here before and has refused in recent weeks to suggest better days could be right around the corner.
"We're going night to night," Matheny said before his club started a seven-game homestand against San Diego and Cincinnati. "(Wednesday) night was a good one.
"But yeah, if we have to evaluate the road trip, that wasn't anything like what we were hoping for. We saw a lot of fight in our club. I don't think anybody who's followed this team could accuse us of not having (that) all year long."
Matheny said he continues to see the necessary work ethic.
"Even those two games we lost in Miami, you still saw grit and you saw guys trying to figure out how to make something happen," he said. "Some days, it's just not coming together for whatever reason. One component's not there. But we'll focus on (Wednesday). The last one was a good one and we want to turn that into momentum moving forward."
Taking tabs on Taveras
Rookie Oscar Taveras was 2-for-21 on the road trip as his average tumbled to .206.
"He's got a lot to learn," Matheny said. "He's got a lot of things he needs to improve on --in every aspect of his game. Once again, (it's) young players learning the game. Things they ought to know might not necessarily come second-nature. Things get in the way."
Matheny pointed out Taveras' eighth-inning at-bat Wednesday when Taveras was frustrated with hitting a roller to first and responded by not hustling enough running to the bag.
"He almost could have been doubled up at first base, and that's just because of the frustration," Matheny said. "We get that. He wants to do his part. He wants to have a big at-bat right there. But in part, (his job) is to get to first base as fast as you can. ... That that stuff isn't going to work because we're here to win. Every out, every play, every turn on the bases means a lot."
More bad numbers
The Cardinals' starting lineup Thursday included four hitters with averages under .225: center fielder Peter Bourjos (.224), catcher Tony Cruz (.210), second baseman Mark Ellis (.196) and right fielder Shane Robinson (.128).
Matheny wanted to get as many right-handed hitters in the lineup against San Diego left-hander Eric Stults, who had allowed a .292 average to right-handers. However, Bourjos (.198), Cruz (.179), Ellis (.225) and Robinson (.133) hadn't exactly shined against southpaws. Ellis did own a .462 mark against Stults (6-for-13).
Jon Jay possesses a .421 average against left-handers, but Matheny said Jay still is experiencing soreness in his left wrist.
Reliever Jason Motte is on the disabled list with a strained lower back and the healing process has been slow.
"It's one of those things where I'm just waiting to get back to 100 percent," Motte said. "We don't want to go out there and try to push it and then (have a setback). We're just kind of doing stuff to get it to where it needs to be so we can get it to where I can do more."
Motte is eligible to be activated Sunday, but that won't happen.
"We were hoping everything would be fine before the road trip was over," he said. "We're just taking it one day at a time, seeing what we can do to help it that day. As long as we're not going backwards, I think we're going good."