ST. LOUIS -- Though hopeful they would retain their full coaching staff for next season, the Cardinals have ended up with at least one vacancy to fill. The Rangers announced Tuesday that they have hired Bengie Molina to serve as first-base coach/catching coordinator. Molina was the Cardinals' assistant hitting coach in 2013, his first season as a Major League coach.
General manager John Mozeliak, speaking from the General Managers Meetings in Orlando, Fla., said that he, too, learned of Molina's decision to leave on Tuesday. Mozeliak will meet with manager Mike Matheny when he returns to St. Louis later this week to begin the process of seeking a replacement.
Mozeliak confirmed the Cardinals did offer Molina the chance to return to his same position in 2014.
While working with the Cardinals provided Molina the opportunity to work in the same organization as brother Yadier, this shift to Texas moves him up the coaching ladder and brings him back to an organization for which he played. Molina was a catcher for the Rangers under manager Ron Washington in 2010. It was the last stop in Molina's 13-year playing career.
The Cardinals' assistant hitting coach position has been turned over now for three straight seasons. Mike Aldrete held it for four years before being promoted to bench coach in 2012. He was replaced by John Mabry, who then slid into the primary hitting coach position in 2013. That opened the opportunity for Molina.
Because Molina filled what is considered an extra coaching spot, the Cardinals have flexibility in filling it. They can stick with their current model and hire a new assistant hitting coach. Other teams use that position to employ an extra pitching coach. The Angels recently took a new route by hiring Rick Eckstein to serve as a facilitator of advanced scouting.
Mozeliak said that "we feel it's been helpful" to have that extra hitting coach, but that various options will still be explored.
The Cardinals have not made any official announcements regarding their 2014 coaching staff, but Mozeliak said that as of right now, he does expect the rest of Matheny's coaches to return. Bullpen coach Blaise Ilsley was known to be drawing interest from the Phillies in their pitching coach search.