Molina inches closer to return to Yanks

Molina inches closer to return to Yanks

NEW YORK -- Jose Molina's return to the Yankees appears to be coming closer. The backup catcher, who strained his left quad on May 7, ran the bases before Sunday's game against the Mets and said afterward he felt no pain. He will try to run the bases again on Tuesday and could be behind the plate for New York within a couple of weeks.

"I could play today," Molina said. "I don't know how it would be, but I feel like I could play."

Molina came up lame trying to score from second on a base hit in a game against the Rays. He has been on the disabled list since. Earlier this month, the Yankees set him to Tampa, Fla., to begin working out and begin playing in some extended spring training games.

Because of inclement weather expected in Florida this week, Molina will remain with the Yankees in New York for a few more days. If things go well on Tuesday when he again tries to run, there is a good chance he will begin playing Minor League rehab games later in the week. From there, it is only a matter of time before he is activated off the DL.

"I have to talk to [trainer Gene Monahan] a little bit more, but we'll watch on Tuesday," manager Joe Girardi said. "We think that at some point during the week, we'll be able to send him out."

Molina was encouraged by his progress on Sunday and told a group of reporters he is as "close to 100 percent as I can get." He added that feeling completely 100 percent would mean going a full year without being hurt.

He said he is ready right now to catch, but he is concerned with his offense and running the bases. Molina has been considered one of the premiere defensive backstops in the American League for much of his career and has been an important cog for the Yankees spelling starter Jorge Posada.

"I'm ready to catch," Molina said. "It's the timing of hitting the pitchers and running."

Fortunately for Molina and the Yankees, the team hasn't missed a beat with its backup catcher on the shelf. Rookie Francisco Cervelli has filled in admirably and has it made it tough for the Bombers to send him back to the Minor Leagues.

Like Molina, Cervelli is known for his defense, and Yankee pitchers have praised his ability to call games. What the Yankees did not expect was his bat. Despite being a light hitter at Double-A Trenton (batting just .190 this year), Cervelli has handled the stick well with New York, hitting .269 with a homer and seven RBIs in 67 at-bats. When he was called up, Girardi told Cervelli not to worry about his offense and focus on defense.

Despite Cervelli's performance, it seems unlikely the Yankees will carry three catchers, and he will probably be sent back down to the Minors when Molina returns.

Seeing Cervelli perform so well has made Molina's time on the disabled list a bit easier -- but not much. Now that he can sense an imminent return, Molina is counting down the days. But he made sure to praise Cervelli for what he has done in his time with the Yankees.

"It's beautiful -- I like it," Molina said of Cervelli. "That's what you hope for. It feels like I haven't missed much."

Jared Diamond is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.