ST. LOUIS -- Tony Cruz has long bided his time sitting in the shadows of one of the game's best catchers, waiting for the infrequent opportunities to start while trying to continually improve at his craft.
His opportunity for everyday repetitions has abruptly arrived.
With Yadier Molina expected to be out for at least eight weeks after tearing a ligament in his right thumb, Cruz ascends into the primary catcher position. Audry Perez, recalled from Triple-A on Thursday, will serve as his backup. The Cardinals are open to improving their depth by acquiring a veteran catcher, but for now, Cruz is ready to step in.
"Tony has done a great job," manager Mike Matheny said. "We feel when he gets out there he gives us a chance to win. I think that's exactly what anybody out here would hope for. We've got faith in him, we've got trust in him, and now he just has to go out and continue to do what he's been doing."
Cruz made his 13th start behind the plate on Thursday, and the Cardinals had gone 7-5 in his first 12. With playing time so sporadic, Cruz has stayed mentally involved by going through pitch sequencing in the dugout during games. He and Molina often develop game plans together, and Cruz has gotten work with all the pitchers by catching their bullpen sessions.
"I have 100 percent confidence in him," Molina said of Cruz. "He knows what he's doing, he's got the ability to do it, and I have no doubt what he can do. Tony's smart, and he's a good player, a good hitter, a good catcher."
Cruz has contributed with the bat, too, hitting .293 with seven RBIs and an on-base percentage of .345 in his 12 starts. He served as the team's everyday catcher last season, when Molina missed two weeks with a knee injury. The club went 6-8 during that stretch.
Perez, who appeared in two games as a September callup by the Cardinals last season, will be ready behind Cruz. Perez was hitting .288/.288/.382 with 10 doubles, two homers and 21 RBIs in 44 games with Memphis before receiving this second big league summons. He arrived at Busch Stadium on Thursday afternoon.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Alex Halsted is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.