JUPITER, Fla. — Yadier Molina is back, and he and the St. Louis Cardinals couldn’t be happier.
After missing the first week of spring training due to personal reasons, the 39-year-old Puerto Rican arrived at the Cardinals’ complex Monday for what will likely be his last spring training.
“The last two months have been difficult, but everything is fine now,” Molina said. “I’m happy to be back.”
As San Luis manager Olivier Marmol welcomed Molina during a private meeting, cheers and applause from his teammates could be heard outside the building.
Before that, a smiling Molina couldn’t take more than a handful of steps without another teammate reaching out for a hug.
“I’ve had three hugs now, just a few minutes ago I gave him one,” pitcher Adam Wainwright said. “I’m probably going to go to the room in a minute. I’m really glad my friend is back.”
With 20 starts together this season, Wainwright and Molina will have 325 together, surpassing the major league record held by former Detroit Tigers players Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan.
When Marmol, a rookie manager, writes Molina’s name on the lineup card for the first time, he’ll be putting a 10-time Gold Glove winner and nine-time All-Star behind the plate. He will also have an undisputed leader in the field.
“It’s an extremely important part of what we do here, of the culture in general,” Marmol said. “It represents a lot that he walks through those doors.”
Molina knew he would report late to spring training, but couldn’t report to the Cardinals because of lockout rules, which prohibited communication between teams and players.
“I would like to have introduced myself from day one, but they understand my situation,” he acknowledged. “They’re happy to have me back. I’m glad to see them too.”
Molina has been training in the offseason, but is still expected to need a couple of days to get into game shape. He might take a little longer until he feels comfortable at the plate against major league pitchers.
“That’s going to be tough,” he said.
Molina put on his Cardinals training uniform and headed to the back fields for practice before St. Louis’ game on Monday. He won’t be in the lineup when the Cardinals make the short trip to face Washington tonight.
He estimates it will take “four to five days” for him to be ready to appear in a Grapefruit League game.
“I don’t see many challenges, to be honest,” Marmol said. “This is a guy who’s getting ready for spring training camps or injured, who tends to have a good sense of his body and an awareness of what it needs. We’ll be sensitive to how that develops and we’ll intervene. No It shouldn’t be a problem at all.”
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Yadier already appeared with the Cardinals