Cards’ Molina catches up, throws out runner in 1st action

JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — Yadier Molina quickly caught up for lost time.

In his first game action this spring, the nine-time Gold Glove catcher threw out a would-be basestealer Friday as the St. Louis Cardinals played against their minor leaguers.

“It’s always fun to hear that ball whiz by your head and then watch a guy get thrown out,” said Miles Mikolas, who was pitching at the time.

The 39-year-old Molina missed the first week of what will likely be his final spring training to deal with a personal matter.

A 10-time All-Star, Molina went 0 for 4 in the game played on a back field, with two flyouts and two groundouts.

“I think it’s a matter of just getting his legs under him in a setting that’s a little more controlled,” new Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said.

Molina is targeting Sunday’s game at the New York Mets for his Grapefruit League debut, Marmol said.

“As of right now he said he feels good,” Marmol said. “He’s looking to travel and play in St. Lucie.”

A career .280 hitter with 171 homers and 998 RBIs, Molina is entering his 19th major league season.

Marmol is certain the veteran will be ready for opening day.

“No doubt,” Marmol said.

Slated to be the Cardinals’ No. 2 starter, Mikolas struggled in his first inning, allowing three runs and four hits. He attributed the rough start to putting too many pitches in the strike zone and a couple of groundballs that squeaked through the infield,

Mikolas faced the minimum amount of hitters over his final three innings, thanks to Molina’s throw. Efficiency afforded Mikolas the chance to throw one more inning than originally planned.

“Being able to be in that controlled environment back there is what allowed me to go that extra inning,” Mikolas said. “I felt like I could have gone one more.”

Mikolas’ move to the back fields allowed newly acquired Drew VerHagen to make his first Grapefruit League start for St. Louis.

Originally with the Detroit Tigers, VerHagen signed with St. Louis in the days before camp opened after spending two seasons pitching in Japan. He’s in the mix to fill the Cardinals’ fifth starting spot, which became available because of Jack Flaherty’s shoulder issue.

“I wanted to see VerHagen with the open competition for that last spot — haven’t seen him in the stadium — and get a really good look at him,” Marmol said.

VerHagen only allowed two hits in his three innings against Washington, but both of them left the ballpark.

NOTES: St. Louis transferred pitcher Alex Reyes to the 60-day injured list. Lat week, Reyes received a stem cell injection as treatment for a frayed labrum. Reyes had 29 saves for the Cardinals last season.

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