The Cardinals may be without one of their most important players when they host the division-leading Brewers for three games starting on Monday, as catcher Yadier Molina is out of the team's lineup for the second straight day on Sunday and may not be ready to face Milwaukee.
"Hopeful is the best way to put it," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of Molina's availability for the Brewers series (St. Louis Post-Dispatch).
Molina was suffering from soreness in his left calf muscle and told his teammates Saturday that he wouldn't miss Sunday's game. But when La Russa filled out the lineup for the last game of the series against the Reds, Gerald Laird was penciled in to catch Edwin Jackson.
The Cardinals also said they wouldn't promote Tony Cruz from Triple-A Memphis before the Redbirds' season ends on Monday because of the moves that would have to be made throughout the rest of the organization to make sure every team had a catcher.
Molina's hitting .294/.333/.451 with 12 homers, but his worth isn't best measured by any of those numbers or even WAR or any advanced stats, instead, it's best shown by 111 -- the number of games he's started behind the plate in the Cardinals' 139 games. Only Florida's John Buck (113) and Arizona's Miguel Montero (112) have started more games behind the plate this season than the three-time Gold Glover. Molina also has the reputation as one of the best catchers in the majors at handling pitchers.
Laird, 31, is hitting .235/.305/.365 with one homer this season and has started 20 games for the Cardinals this season behind the plate, including Saturday's victory.
St. Louis enters Sunday's game 8 1/2 behind the Brewers in the National League Central and with 23 games remaining, would likely need another sweep of the Brewers to keep any hopes at the playoffs alive. The Cardinals swept the Brewers in Milwaukee last week.For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.