By Rob Rains
Yadier Molina was released from Mercy Hospital Sunday morning and the Cardinals’ catcher was resting at home, just hours after he underwent surgery for a traumatic hematoma. He suffered the injury on Saturday when he was hit in the groin by a foul tip.
Molina’s brother, Bengie, was at Molina’s house when he arrived home and said his brother was walking “slowly.”
The Cardinals said the doctor’s expectations were that Molina will miss about a month as he recovers from the injury and surgery, which was to relieve pressure in the area.
Both Molina and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said the challenge now will be to convince Molina to take his time recovering and not to try to speed up that timetable.
“I’ve only known two tough guys in my life,” Bengie Molina said, “my dad and the other guy is him. I’m sorry Jose,” referring to the third Molina brother.
“I went to his house and I was expecting him to come in in a wheelchair or needing a little help so I went to the door and when I saw him he was walking. He didn’t want a wheelchair, he didn’t want anything. He’s got power, he’s going to walk.”
John Mozeliak, the president of baseball operations, said the doctors want Molina to take it easy and basically not do anything except rest for a week.
That will be hard, his brother said.
“It’s a surgery and he knows it’s serious and he has to spend time away,” Bengie Molina said. “I was talking to the doctor and I told him, ‘You’re going to have to cuff him down somewhere.’ I’m sure one week is going to go by before the trainers are going to be like, ‘No you can’t run, no you can’t lift.’ That’s just him.”
Matheny, who had one similar incident during his playing career that required a trip to the hospital and a procedure, said he already was advising Molina to take it easy and take his time recovering.
“He always feels bad when he can’t be here, that’s just how he’s wired,” Matheny said. “It seems like he’s moving around a little better than even they anticipated which is great news.
“The last text I sent to him was to make sure you go easy and take this time to err on the side of rest. I know that’s what the doctors want at this point is for him to lay low and that’s going to be really hard for him. That’s the negative of having a high pain tolerance is that you typically do push before you are supposed to. Hopefully he’s able to follow along with what the protocol is and get back when they think he’s ready.”
Molina was struck by the foul tip off the bat of the Cubs’ Kris Bryant in the ninth inning on Saturday, when he swung at a 102 miles per hour fastball thrown by Jordan Hicks. Molina had no time to react or avoid the impact.
He lay on the field for several minutes before he was able to stand up and walk off the field. He was taken to the hospital after the game and underwent surgery a few hours later.
The Cardinals recalled Carson Kelly from Memphis and expect him to receive the bulk of the playing time while Molina is out, with Francisco Pena also getting some of the assignments. Pena started on Sunday night.
Clearly, however, Molina will be missed. He was hitting .272 with six homers and 17 RBIs in the first 30 games of the season, and his contributions go well beyond his offensive production.
“He’s been our unofficial captain for well over a decade,” Mozeliak said. “There are going to be lots of parts of him that are going to be missed. When you have this type of situation somebody is going to have to step up.”
Matheny added about Molina, “He’s amazing. He’s just unique. I’ve never seen anybody quite like him. He has the highest baseball IQ of anybody I’ve ever seen.”
As Molina recovers, Matheny said he expects him to be around the team and be available to offer whatever assistance and guidance he can to both Kelly and Pena. “He’s a teacher,” Matheny said. “He’s going to be around at some point. He’s not going to be able to help himself to say what he saw.”
Kelly arrived at Busch Stadium a few hours before Sunday night’s game after playing regularly at Triple A. He knows he is getting an opportunity to show that he is ready to play at the major-league level, even if it is under conditions he wishes were different.
He watched a videotape of Molina getting hit. “I don’t want to watch it again,” he said.
Kelly, who spent the last half of last season as Molina’s backup but did not get much playing time, is aware of the challenge of taking over for en eight-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove winner.
“I have to be Carson Kelly,” he said. “I can’t be Yadier Molina. Very unfortunate to see what happened and my prayers are with him and his family. You never want to see something like that. But I’m going to do the very best that I can. I’m going to be the best Carson Kelly I can be and help this team any way I can.”
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