St. Louis Cardinals

Molina upbeat despite thumb injury

Yadier Molina is breathing easier now that he believes he will be able to return this season.

Molina, his left thumb swollen to nearly double its normal size because of a partially torn ligament suffered Sunday, expressed relief Tuesday that there remains enough time for it to heal before the St. Louis Cardinals begin the postseason.

“It’s good news. I was expecting the worse,” Molina said. “But yeah, it came out good. It’ll be five, seven, 10 days, whatever it is, but no surgery.”

The Cardinals said Monday that Molina would be re-evaluated in five to seven days, perhaps by this weekend, to determine how well the thumb is healing.

Molina was injured when he grabbed right fielder Jason Heyward’s stroing throw and tagged out the Chicago Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo at the plate in the Cardinals’ 4-3 victory at Wrigley Field. Rizzo slid directly into the thumb of the glove.

“I don’t know what happened,” Molina said. “I was just trying to put the tag on and he hit me. ... Injuries are part of the game.”

Molina said he has not tried to hold a bat. He didn’t immediately leave the game after the eighth-inning injury, but he left in the ninth when the pain was too significant to catch.

“It was difficult,” he said of completing the eighth inning, an assignment made all the more unforgiving by having Trevor Rosenthal on the mound throwing close to 100 mph. “I was in pain, obviously. But I wanted to be there.”

The Cardinals’ first postseason game, assuming they maintain their first-place lead in the NL Central, will be Oct. 9. Molina plans to start behind the plate against Pittsburgh or the Cubs.

“I’m trying to,” Molina said. “The trainers and the doctors are doing everything possible to make that happen. We have to wait.”

Molina went a step further, however, maintaining hope he can return during the regular season, which concludes Oct. 4 in Atlanta.

“I think so, yeah. I hope so,” Molina said. “It feels better than (Monday). But I’m going to wait; I’m not going to try to do anything. I’m going to wait five, six days. ... You have to be patient; you can’t rush things. I’m going to take my time and heal good.”

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Molina may benefit from the rest. Just last week, Matheny said Molina’s energy level was at its lowest point of the season.

“It could be. You never know,” said Matheny, who celebrated his 45h birthday Tuesday. “I think he would probably argue because he just wants to play, and this is the time of year he’s worked so hard to be ready for. This is the time when he normally shines, too.

“But he’s been fighting some different injuries, not necessarily from fatigue, but just from the position: foul balls and things that come along with the catching position. Maybe a little extra time will help. But right now, we’ll focus on doing what we can do.”

Molina is batting .270 with 23 doubles, four home runs and 61 RBIs in 136 games. Tony Cruz will receive the bulk of the playing time while Molina is sidelined, with backup help provided by Ed Easley and Travis Tartamella.

Molina said Cruz is ready for the opportunity, just as he was last year when Molina tore the ligament in his right thumb on a slide into third base at Busch Stadium.

“We’ve been together for many years,” Molina said. “I’ve got (a lot) of confidence in Tony. I know he can do the job. Obviously, when he came out in the ninth inning and threw the guy out in Chicago, that shows you he can do the job. So I’ve got confidence in him.”

Molina was referring to Cruz gunning down Cubs pinch-runner Quintin Berry at second on a stolen-base attempt in the ninth. Rosenthal then easily retired the next two hitters.

Molina is the latest in a long line of Cardinals injuries, following Matt Holliday, Matt Adams, Adam Wainwright, Randal Grichuk, Matt Belisle, Jon Jay and Jordan Walden.

By now, the Cardinals are accustomed to the adversity, yet it’s hardly hurt them as they began Tuesday with a major league-best record of 94-56.

“It’s been a tough year with the injuries,” Molina said, “but we’ve been there and we’ve been playing well and pitching well. Hopefully, we continue doing that.”

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665, @DavidMWilhelm