JUPITER, Fla. -- St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina has taken another step toward meeting his stated goal of being ready by Opening Day. The Platinum Glove winner has begun drills and could start catching pitchers' bullpen sessions as early as this weekend, manager Mike Matheny said Friday morning.
Molina is recovering from major left thumb surgery and could be weeks from picking up a bat to take batting practice, but it's significant that he has begun his defensive work this early in camp. On Friday, he caught balls projected from a pitching machine.
"This will work well in terms of getting his arm closer to where he wants it to be," Matheny said.
Molina will continue to wear a splint under his catchers' mitt, Matheny said, but many catchers wear them as a preventive measure anyway. Molina said he has never worn one while catching, so it will take some getting used to.
"Everything feels good," Molina said. "It's getting stronger."
Brayan Pena will be the Cardinals' catcher if Molina isn't ready by Opening Day, April 3. Molina's starting the season on the disabled list would open the door to a roster spot for one of the younger catchers in camp. Non-roster invitees Eric Fryer and Alberto Rosario are among the players competing for that possibility.
Meetings planned: The Cardinals are scheduled to meet with Joe Torre and other baseball officials Saturday morning to discuss the rule changes designed to protect middle infielders on plays around second base and on new speed-up-the-game procedures.
The Cardinals' infielders seem to be split about the new rule, which requires baserunners to be within reach of the bag. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta said he's all for it.
"It's good. This is something they were talking about last year, so finally they're doing it. Guys go too far. There are a lot of people hurt, like [Ruben] Tejada last year," Peralta said. "To slide at second base like that, it's dangerous. They made a good rule. I feel better."
Excused absences: The Cardinals were without two of their outfielders Friday. Stephen Piscotty has missed three days of camp with what the team suspects is food poisoning. Carlos Peguero, a non-roster player, was excused because his wife is due to give birth.