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LaRue returns; Molina remains out

LaRue returns; Molina remains out

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Only one question remains on the day before the Cardinals are required to set their Opening Day roster. Jason LaRue and Blake Hawksworth both played in Saturday's exhibition finale against the Twins at Target Field, leaving only Yadier Molina's status uncertain in advance of Monday's opener in Cincinnati.

LaRue, who suffered a bone bruise on his left hand on Tuesday, was not originally listed when manager Tony La Russa posted the Cardinals' lineup on Saturday morning. But after LaRue took batting practice on the field at the new Minnesota ballpark, he was cleared and took Matt Pagnozzi's place in the starting nine. LaRue went 2-for-2 with an RBI and played six innings.

"He did a good job," La Russa said. "Swung the bat well. One of the highlights."

Hawksworth, meanwhile, had expected to pitch Saturday after throwing a bullpen session on Thursday. He has been dealing with right groin soreness. He allowed a run on three hits, but came through the outing without incident.

Molina has not played since March 24, when he suffered a strained right oblique muscle. Like LaRue, Molina took batting practice on the field on Saturday for the first time since he got injured. He also caught a bullpen session on Friday, and signs point toward him being on the active roster on Monday -- if not necessarily available to play.

"Everything went great, how I expected," Molina said. "I took hitting outside, running, throwing, everything felt good. Hopefully tomorrow when I wake up, it will feel good."

If it appears Molina will be unavailable for only a few days to start the season, the Cardinals would be willing to place him on the active roster and use Nick Stavinoha as the backup to LaRue. Stavinoha caught in college and has arrived early and worked out with catchers the past two springs.

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