Molina received the go-ahead to start Thursday's series opener against the Nationals after undergoing additional tests earlier in the day. Among those tests was another concussion exam, the third one Molina had taken since the hit. It ruled out any chance that Molina sustained a head injury.
"Every time you get hit in the head, there is danger," Molina said. "I'm impressed that nothing worse happened to me. Right now, I [feel] pretty lucky, because it could have been worse."
Manager Mike Matheny anticipated it would be, and he said on Thursday that he never expected Molina to miss only one game. Matheny, whose career ended because of side effects from multiple concussions, told Molina that he would base his lineup decision not on his own past collision experiences, but on doctor recommendation.
The Cardinals' medical staff expressed no reservations about Molina returning to the field. Molina also reported much less stiffness in his neck, which had still been an issue on Wednesday.
"I gave him my word," Matheny said. "I really didn't want to pass on the struggles that I had and automatically throw them onto him. Just because I have a soft squash doesn't mean that he does. It's just not fair to him. The conversation we had is that if he passes the test and the doctors say he's OK, I'm not going to stop you. I'm going to be extra cautious because I know more about this than any one person should know. I'm not going to compare you to me, but we're going to be real cautious here."
The Cardinals gladly inserted Molina back into the fifth spot in the batting order on Thursday so that he could face Nationals starter Edwin Jackson. Molina entered the night with seven hits in eight career at-bats against Jackson.