ATLANTA -- In weighing whether to keep a right-handed power bat (Brock Peterson) or a third catcher (Rob Johnson) on the roster, the Cardinals ultimately opted for retaining the extra protection behind the plate.
Though Yadier Molina has had no major issues with his right knee since before the All-Star break, the Cardinals still intend to be proactive in giving Molina enough days off to stay fresh. That will be especially imperative for the final two months of the year, as the Cardinals only have four more off days scattered into their schedule. They are currently in a stretch that has them playing 37 games in 37 days.
"We have to be careful with Yadi and watch what we do," manager Mike Matheny said. "He seems to be feeling better. He's moving better. But we've still got to keep our eyes on him, and we're just going to have to use [backup catchers] Tony [Cruz] and Rob as we were using Brock."
With the extra catcher available, that frees Matheny up to use one of the two in a pinch-hit spot without leaving the club exposed at the position. And on the days Molina does not start, he, too, can be much more freely used off the bench.
Matheny's desire to be intentional in giving extra rest does not just apply with Molina. Matheny has been doing so over the last few weeks with Pete Kozma and Jon Jay, too, which has allowed Daniel Descalso and Shane Robinson to see the field more often. Finding time off for Carlos Beltran also remains a priority.
Though Beltran has not dealt with many health issues this season, this was about the time last year that his knees started getting cranky and his production waned. He does not seem to be dealing with similar physical issues now, though Beltan has had a slow start to the second half. He came into the weekend with two hits in 18 at-bats since the All-Star break.
"I know he would like his swing to be a little sharper," Matheny said. "He's been working pretty hard to get that locked in again. But I do want to stay on that same pace to make sure he's getting time now and again. And he seems to be better with it than he certainly was at the beginning of the year.
"None of the guys liked the concept early on, and I absolutely appreciate that. … But I think they realize how good they actually feel with those days [off], even though they don't want them. And in the long run, hopefully it will make a difference between how Carlos felt last year and this time."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.