ST. LOUIS -- Despite learning that right knee troubles will sideline first baseman Lance Berkman for at least the next two weeks, the Cardinals did have a pair of positive medical reports to pass along on Friday.
After separate meetings with the team doctor on Friday, Rafael Furcal (lower back stiffness) and Yadier Molina (right thumb bruise) were both cleared to return to the field.
In Molina's case, an X-ray confirmed that the catcher did not fracture his thumb during an awkward slide into first base on Wednesday. Diagnosed with only a bone bruise, Molina tested his ability to grip and throw on Friday afternoon. He looked good enough for manager Mike Matheny to insert Molina into the sixth spot in Friday's lineup.
"It feels OK," Molina said of his thumb. "I was thinking it was something worse. Thank God it's only a bruise."
Furcal's situation had been improving over the last few days, so it did not come as much of a surprise to see him back in the leadoff spot on Friday. He lobbied to play while the team was in Colorado this week, but the Cardinals wanted Furcal to first be cleared by team physician Dr. George Paletta in St. Louis.
Whether the Cardinals will be more liberal in giving Furcal days off during the final two months is something the team has not publicly stated. Injuries have limited Furcal to fewer than 100 games played in three of the last four seasons. As a result, there is certainly reason to consider resting Furcal more regularly so that his chances of being strong late in the year improve.
"We just have to see how he reacts every day," Matheny said. "Hopefully, they've got a plan for what they're trying to accomplish to try and stay ahead of this. His body will tell us."