Molina prepares to debut on Sunday

JUPITER, Florida USA — Yadier Molina immediately made up for lost time.

In his first appearance this preseason, the nine-time Gold Glove-winning catcher retired a runner who tried to steal a base from him Friday in a game in which the St. Louis Cardinals played their minor leaguers.

“It’s always fun to hear the whiz of the ball going over your head and watch a runner get retired,” said Miles Mikolas, who was on the mound.

Molina, 39, missed the first week of what will likely be his last preseason camp to attend to a personal matter.

The Puerto Rican, a ten-time All-Star, went 0-for-4 in the game, with two fly balls and two ground balls into the box.

“I think it’s a matter of him putting his legs into action in a little more controlled environment,” new Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said.

Molina has set his sights on making his Grapefruit League debut on Sunday against the New York Mets, Marmol said.

“So far he said he feels fine,” he said. “She is looking to travel and play in St. Lucie.”

Molina will play his 19th season in the major leagues, he is a hitter who has numbers of .280 in batting average, with 171 home runs and 998 RBI.

Marmol is confident the veteran receiver will be ready for opening day.

Scheduled to be the Cardinals’ No. 2 starter, Mikolas struggled in the first inning, allowing three runs on four hits. He attributed his difficult outing to putting too many balls in the strike zone and a couple of ground balls that ran up the infield.

Mikolas faced minimal batters in his last three innings thanks to Molina’s shot. The efficiency gave Mikolas the opportunity to pitch an inning longer than originally planned.

“Being in that controlled environment is what allows me to pitch that extra inning,” Mikolas said. “I feel like I could have thrown one more.”

Mikolas’ performance in this matchup against the substitutes allowed newly acquired Drew VerHagen to make his first Grapefruit League start for St. Louis.

Originally with the Detroit Tigers, VerHagen signed with St. Louis in the days before camp opened after spending two seasons in Japan. He’s in contention to be the Cardinals’ fifth starter, a spot left open because of Jack Flaherty’s shoulder problems.

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Molina prepares to debut on Sunday