Cardinals open camp without timetable for Molina

JUPITER, Fla. (AP) Mike Matheny put on his St. Louis uniform before the sun rose Thursday while thinking about a photo and the words of a Cardinals great.

The photo of Stan Musial is part of a sign near the indoor batting cages in St. Louis that features one of the late star's most famous quotes: ''I love to play this game of baseball. I love putting on the uniform.''

That same sentiment grabbed Matheny some five hours before the Cardinals' pitchers and catchers took the field for their first workout of the spring.

''I get it and I felt it today,'' Matheny said. ''That's kind of how we started things today.''

Matheny walked onto the Roger Dean Stadium back fields in sunny conditions chilled a bit by a breeze than increased in intensity throughout the workout. One year after switching his uniform number to 26, Matheny was back wearing 22 - the number he wore as a player and during his first years as a manger.

Last season, he passed the number to Jason Heyward, who came to the Cardinals in an offseason trade.

''It was probably into June or July that I'd grab (my uniform) and then look twice at the number because it looked odd,'' Matheny said.'

Now Heyward is gone, having signed with the Chicago Cubs a couple months back, but most of the familiar Cardinals returned.

Ace Adam Wainwright didn't wait long before tossing his first bullpen session of the spring. The right-hander missed most of last season after tearing his Achilles tendon but did return in a relief role late in the year.

The three-time All-Star acknowledged the extended time off last season could help him this year.

''My arm feels amazing,'' he said.

Wainwright made his tosses to newly acquired catcher Brian Pena, who the Cardinals signed because of worries about the health of veteran Yadier Molina.

The eight-time all-star catcher wore a splint on Thursday to support his left (catching) thumb which was surgically repaired twice during the offseason.

After stretching, as players headed in different directions for various drills, Molina returned to the clubhouse.

''We've got enough medical people in here to have one-on-one service,'' Matheny said. ''Yadi is going to have plenty of hands on and constant monitoring. He's got to get his strength. His strength is our No. 1 concern right now.''

St. Louis is not setting a timetable for Molina to resume baseball activities.

''He had one surgery, then had to have a second. The last thing you want to do is have a third, because that would be a problem,'' general manager John Mozeliak said.

With Molina out of action, Pena will serve as the Cardinals' primary catcher during the spring. He arrived at Cardinals camp on Wednesday and almost immediately sought out Molina in the clubhouse.

''I said, Yadier, if you play 15 games in a row or if you play 60 games in a row, I'm going to be the same guy,'' Pena said. ''I'm always going to be there for you. I'm always going to be ready if my name is called. I've got your back man, no matter what.''

Unsure of Molina's spring status, the Cardinals signed free-agent catcher Eric Fryer in November. Fryer played in 15 games with Minnesota last season and has 65 games of major league action spanning five years.

The Cardinals invited a total of eight catchers and 33 pitchers to camp. All arrived except for minor league pitcher Robby Rowland, who recently underwent arm surgery. Lance Lynn is in camp but is not participating in drills as he recovers from elbow ligament replacement surgery.

Molina completed his clubhouse work and headed to the parking lot about the same time the remainder of the Cardinals completed their final on-field drills.

Does Molina expect to be ready for opening day? He offered a simple answer before hopping in his car.