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Yadier Molina advises Jhonny Peralta to listen to doctors on thumb

JUPITER, Fla. -- The St. Louis Cardinals are hoping this season doesn’t become the Year of the Sore Thumb.

So far spring training has been defined by the recuperation of All-Star catcher Yadier Molina and the injury to All-Star shortstop Jhonny Peralta. Molina, who underwent the same ligament-repair surgery Peralta had Thursday, gave Peralta advice on the recovery process.

One key difference: Molina’s hand wasn’t placed in a cast after the first surgery and he later needed a ligament-replacement procedure, in which doctors use a sturdier tendon to sub for the weakened ligament.

Peralta, who returned to camp Monday, has a hard cast and a sling.

“It’s no fun to have to be in a cast and everything, but he told me, ‘Try to do it the right way,’ because he did it one time and didn’t do the process of how they need to do it and that’s when he got hurt one more time,” Peralta said. “He said, ‘Take your time and do what you need to do.’"

Because the second surgery delayed his recovery, Molina’s ability to return for Opening Day remains a mystery. He does continue to progress, however. On Monday he took batting practice with his teammates for the first time, and he will catch new starting pitcher Mike Leake in a game for the second time. The last time Molina caught in a game he had one at-bat, but took three straight pitches to strike out under orders not to swing.

The Cardinals hope Molina can make Leake better, because of his reputation for calling pitches in counts and situations hitters don’t expect.

“Yadi is as creative a game-caller as I’ve ever seen,” manager Mike Matheny said. “I think a pitcher who can make tough pitches with multiple pitches would be the one who’d benefit most from a player as creative as Yadi.”

Peralta’s expected recovery time remains 10 to 12 weeks, which would have him returning by late May at the earliest and by mid-June at the latest. The team is watching how Jedd Gyorko, who is starting at shortstop Monday, Aledmys Diaz and Greg Garcia handle shortstop before deciding whether it needs to go outside the organization for a shortstop while Peralta recovers. The Cardinals have shown interest already in the Mets’ Ruben Tejada, a source told ESPN.com’s Adam Rubin.