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With Waino struggling, the Cardinals need Yadi more than ever

The Cardinals need Yadier Molina back in the lineup to help steady a young pitching staff.
The Cardinals need Yadier Molina back in the lineup to help steady a young pitching staff. AP

It seemed at the beginning of the season that how well the St. Louis Cardinals would fare depended a lot on the fragile right arm of starting pitcher Adam Wainwright.

But, with the former ace on the disabled list for the third time in the first two months of the season, it seems the real keystone of the St. Louis season is going to be catcher Yadier Molina.

Yadi's bat and his defense are always big factors in the way the Redbirds play. But with Wainwright's career obviously in jeopardy, the Cardinals are going to be forced to count on young hurlers to carry a significant share of the load, ready or not. The team needs Molina to guide the youngsters on the field — especially with the silly new rules that limit how many times coaches or players can visit the mound during games. He calls the pitches, he executes the game plan and takes pressure of the hurler and he instills confidence. Unfortunately, Molina is on the disabled list right now following a horrific injury suffered on a foul ball and could miss a month or more.

It's a bad time for Wainwright to go on the shelf while prospect Jack Flaherty is pressed into service, flame-throwing reliever Jordan Hicks is trying to settle in and Alex Reyes is about to make his return after more than a year of trying to come back from Tommy John surgery. Flaherty pitched a gem for 5 2/3 innings Monday, but was unable to finish what he started, losing a 1-0 lead before he could depart.

I can't help but think that if Yadi was behind the plate that maybe Flaherty would have ended up on the right side of a razor-thin margin of error.

Of course, the development of the young pitching is something that affects the Cardinals not only over the course of this season — but also over the next several seasons. But, with the Birds struggling to score runs right now, they need Molina for other reasons. He's not as flashy as a guy like Albert Pujols. But he's still a vital cog in the St. Louis offense with a knack for coming through at the most important times.

St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny discussed injuries to catcher Yadier Molina and centerfielder Tommy Pham during his team's extra-inning win over the Chicago Cubs Saturday. Molina could miss up to four weeks.

Molina set the tone for this team. He used to share the responsibility with Wainwright. But it's difficult to do that when Wainwright can't lead by example on the field.

This is truly a time of transition for the Cardinals. It's a changing of the guard as Molina and Wainwright fade into the twilight and young guys like Flaherty, Reyes, Hicks, Paul DeJong and Harrison Bader take over their responsibilities. Yadi and Waino are part of an incredible legacy with the former being a part of four World Series, and the latter a part of three (although he was injured during one of them.) They'll forever be best known for their work in 2006 when Molina hit a key home run to give the Cardinals the edge in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series — and the Wainwright struck out Carlos Beltran to send St. Louis to the Fall Classic.

All good things must end. And we're near the end of a very good thing.

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