Molina was placed on the 15-day disabled list and the club purchased the contract of catcher Brian Esposito from Triple-A Memphis to take his place on the active roster. However, Esposito's stay may be short. St. Louis is seeking a veteran catcher to share time with Gary Bennett.
"It's a big setback," said general manager Walt Jocketty. "But we've had a number of those this year, and we'll just have to find a way to overcome it. Losing [Chris] Carpenter was a big setback, and losing Molina is a big setback. Gary is a very good catcher, and he'll do a great job. We've just got to keep him going.
"We'd have to look at trying to find somebody with a little more experience than Espo."
A number of experienced Major League catchers are currently toiling in Triple-A. One of the more intriguing names is that of former Cardinal Mike DiFelice, now playing for the Mets' New Orleans affiliate. Also on the list of Triple-A options are Sandy Alomar Jr. (Mets system), Raul Chavez (Yankees), Raul Casanova (Devil Rays), Alberto Castillo (Orioles), Mark Johnson (Diamondbacks) and Wiki Gonzalez (White Sox).
Javy Lopez is a free agent, but Jocketty expressed little interest in the former All-Star. Lopez hit 15 home runs as recently as 2005, but is considered a defensive liability.
Molina, 24, was struck by a foul tip in the third inning of Tuesday night's game against Colorado. He remained in the game into the fourth, but when it became obvious that he was in intense pain, pitcher Braden Looper called the training staff out to the mound and Molina was removed.
Molina has a non-displaced fracture in his wrist. The joint will be placed in a splint and immobilized. The injury occurred in a similar area to one he suffered in 2005, when he was struck on his left hand by a pitch while he was batting. Molina left Denver on Wednesday to return to St. Louis.
It's a double blow for the Cardinals, who lose both a Gold Glove-caliber catcher and a player who has been one of few pleasant offensive surprises in a tough season. Molina is hitting .273 with a .336 on-base percentage and a .344 slugging percentage.
"I put Molina in the category with Carpenter," manager Tony La Russa said. "Carpenter represents more than just a starting pitcher in our rotation. He's really one of the guys that sets our tempo. Molina behind the plate, to me, those are very similar hits. But our response has got to be the same -- the games still count."
Bennett will take the heavy majority of the catching duties for the Cardinals while Molina is out. Esposito, who has never appeared in a Major League game, put up a .174/.221/.243 line at Memphis this season and is a lifetime .219 hitter in 1,395 Minor League at-bats.
One possible candidate for the second catching job was Eli Marrero, but Marrero made himself persona non grata during a stint at Memphis this year. He was recently released, and La Russa said in no uncertain terms that the club will not place a call to inquire about his return.
"Eli mugged his chance," La Russa said. "Not only was he injured, he didn't go about it the way he needed to go about it. It was a prophetic conversation I had with him, trying to give him a little boost when he was with us. He didn't do enough with his chance, injury aside."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less