Molina gets break from slump, rests knee

Molina gets break from slump, rests knee

Molina gets break from slump, rests knee

CHICAGO -- Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who turned 31 on Saturday, got the night off after making his first back-to-back starts since sitting two straight games last weekend trying to heal up from inflammation in his right knee.

Molina, who was elected to be the National League's starting catcher in the All-Star Game on Tuesday, is mired in an 0-for-16 slump and went 0-for-7 in the first two games of a four-game series this weekend against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. He's also 2-for-12 (.167) in his career facing Cubs starter Matt Garza, who started on Saturday night.

Tony Cruz started for the Cardinals instead and caught starter Lance Lynn.

"[Molina] wanted in there, but [it's] a good day for Tony to get in there," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It was my idea. I don't worry about Yadier with matchups. I was just kind of reading his body and reading how he's moving. He said he feels good [and] thinks he feels worse after he has a day off, but that's Yadier."

Molina said on Friday that his knee -- which was surgically repaired in 2007 -- was feeling better with each passing day. The rigors of catching, however, are not easy to overcome. Neither are slumps at the plate when trying to fight through nagging aches and pains.

Matheny, a retired catcher who caught more than 10,000 innings in the Majors, doesn't sound too concerned about Molina's offensive production. He's still carrying a hefty .335 batting average through 316 at-bats, tops in the NL, and his 33 multi-hit games are tied for third in the league.

"[Slumps] happen … that's it," Matheny said. "It's inevitable. He's going to be just fine. I think days like this will be good to just kind of relax his mind. He's really trying to work hard through [the knee issue] and sometimes a day [off] doesn't hurt."

Cruz made his 10th start behind the plate and has appeared in 23 games -- most recently on Wednesday against the Astros. He's 4-for-10 with runners in scoring position at the plate entering Saturday's action, and the Cardinals were 7-0 when Cruz got a hit.

Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.