Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Burwell: Don't Take Chances with Molina

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Burwell: Don't Take Chances with Molina

Article excerpt

I haven't seen Yadier Molina's MRI results, and even if I did, I probably wouldn't be able to determine what condition his tender right knee is in. But I know this much: If he's still feeling even the slightest twinge, the simplest ache or even the mildest discomfort in that surgically repaired joint when he shows up at Busch Stadium this afternoon, the Cardinals should keep him on the bench.

If it takes just one more extra day of rest or even the remainder of the week before the All-Star break against lightweight opposition like the Astros and Cubs discretion ought to be the order of the day for manager Mike Matheny. If he can fight the urge to allow his gifted All-Star catcher to talk his way back into the lineup, that's exactly what he ought to do, because Molina is perhaps the most uniquely valuable player in the National League, and perhaps the most irreplaceable asset this organization has.

On Sunday, Molina told reporters "a couple days of rest and then back at it," when asked if he expected to be back in the lineup Tuesday after missing the final two games of the series against the Marlins. But we now know that Molina has been experiencing discomfort in the knee for more than a month, and only decided something might be seriously wrong Friday when he felt a pinching sensation running to first base.

Part of the very successful Cardinal Way is a tough-guy culture that demands that players fight through the normal aches and pains of a grinding 162-game season. Team leaders have set the tone for this behavior since the Tony La Russa days when making sure your name was on that lineup card every night was a priority.

Yet the problem with that admirable quality of being indestructible macho men is being able to distinguish when that ache could actually be something a lot more serious. La Russa used to snarl derisively when he talked about a player taking the day off because of an "ouchy." He would say it in a tone that was meant to be an insult, and a lot of players in the clubhouse understood and agreed with that vibe.

Matheny's managerial touch is not so heavy handed, but the tough- guy persona persists in the Cardinals clubhouse, epitomized by the indestructible Molina, who has already started in 78 of the team's 87 games behind the plate and is on pace to play at least 1,100 innings for the fifth season in a row.

But what happens when some of those "ouchies" turn into something a lot more serious? What happens when a player doesn't know the difference between being tough and being stubborn? That's when a minor ache can develop into a mess that begins with a 15-day trip to the disabled list then morphs into something a lot worse and more long term.

The Cardinals have had enough of these uncomfortable mishaps over the past few seasons to make you hope that they don't experience a similar misjudgment with Molina. …

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