Molina feeling better, but kept out of lineup

Molina feeling better, but kept out of lineup

CHICAGO -- Though he described his lower back as "way better" than it was on Saturday, Yadier Molina was kept out of the Cardinals' lineup for Sunday's series finale against the Cubs.

Molina exited during the ninth inning on Saturday after straining his back trying to avoid a Carlos Marmol pitch. Molina said he was still experiencing some spasms on Sunday, but that he was encouraged by the fact that he woke up with minimal stiffness.

"I'm moving a lot better than yesterday. That's a good sign," said Molina, who did not participate in any pregame baseball activities on Sunday. "Hopefully each second it'll get better. That's what I expect."

Tony Cruz started in Molina's absence place Sunday, which ended a string of 12 straight starts for Molina, who has already appeared in 130 games for the fourth straight season.

"That's a lot of games," Molina said. "You can't take a day off because you want to be there helping your team to win. You feel it after the game. When you're in your room, that's when you feel your body is tired. When you start, you don't feel that. You are just excited about the game, so you don't feel it."

The pitching staff has a 3.66 ERA when Molina is behind the plate, and the job that he has done to lift his offensive game to an elite level has him in the mix for National League MVP Award consideration this year.