PITTSBURGH -- An MRI performed on Yadier Molina's right knee on Wednesday revealed no structural damage, leaving the Cardinals optimistic that their All-Star catcher will be active after a 15-day stay on the disabled list.
The organization placed Molina on the DL on Wednesday, one day after he was removed in the fourth inning of the Cardinals' 6-0 loss to the Pirates. Molina traveled to St. Louis on Wednesday morning and, in addition to undergoing the MRI, had the knee drained and received a cortisone shot.
The MRI showed nothing different from the one taken a few weeks ago, when Molina first had to miss time with discomfort in the knee.
"I think the biggest difference is just managing it going forward and giving him a true break," general manager John Mozeliak said. "He didn't get that for the All-Star Game. We really feel what's best for him right now is quiet time and some therapy, and then [we're] very optimistic that by the time it's time to come off [the DL], he'll be ready."
Though Molina told reporters after Tuesday's game that his knee hasn't felt quite right since June, it wasn't until Monday that the Cardinals' medical staff was made aware of the continued discomfort. Even then, Molina pushed to play on Tuesday, which is why manager Mike Matheny started him in the nightcap of the doubleheader.
After sensing some discomfort watching Molina's first two at-bats, Matheny told him he needed to sit.
"Obviously, when you have a player, you want to be able to listen to them," Matheny said. "You can't jump inside of them and find out how they feel. You need to trust them. And then we listen to what our medical team is saying, and they're basically going off of their clinical evaluations, which come from feedback of the player as well. We're getting all things pointed in a positive direction, and then we're seeing production that validates it; your tendency is to listen to what you're hearing."
That is why, Matheny said, the Cardinals were comfortable having Molina start the first 10 games after the All-Star break. Though there has been a third catcher on the roster for three weeks, Mozeliak clarified that the decision to keep Rob Johnson as long as they have had more to do with roster strategy than any overwhelming concern for Molina.
Because Johnson has no remaining options, the Cardinals could not have sent him to the Minors without first passing him through waivers, and they were worried that another team would take him if they did.
Mozeliak also defended the club's decision to ride Molina as hard as it has since the knee first became an issue.
"He's been feeling good," he said. "By no means was anybody pushing him. There's certainly times where a manager is going to have to make decisions. But we did have off-days. It wasn't 10 straight days. I feel like that part is being unfairly judged."
The injury to Molina did add an unexpected wrinkle to the Cardinals' non-waiver Trade Deadline pursuits over the last 24 hours, though ultimately the organization stood pat. That means catching duties will be handed over to Tony Cruz and Johnson until Molina's return.
The expectation that Molina will return in mid-August was a factor in the Cardinals' decision not to work harder at making an addition. The Cardinals should have a clearer idea of Molina's timeframe after they see how his knee responds to rest and the treatment administered on Wednesday.
Cruz, who has been Molina's backup for the past two seasons, entered the day batting .218, but with six hits in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position. Wednesday's start was his 13th in 106 games this season.
"There's no replacing what he's done and what he can do," Cruz said. "Yadi is an MVP-caliber guy, and he's important to our ballclub. But I feel like we have a good enough team to move forward until he gets back. I'm going to go in there and do what I can to help the team win."
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.