Yadier Molina expects to return to Cardinals’ lineup Friday

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Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina was removed in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s game against the Diamondbacks after getting crossed up with reliever Mitchell Boggs and taking a pitch off his left hand.

Molina is not in Wednesday’s lineup, but X-rays taken late Tuesday night ruled out a fracture and MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch says the 29-year-old catcher is “cautiously optimistic” that he’ll be back in action for Friday’s series-opener against the Braves.

Tony Cruz drew the nod behind the plate on Wednesday in Arizona. And the Cardinals have a scheduled off day Thursday.

Molina is batting .302/.353/.528 with four home runs, four stolen bases and 16 RBI in 29 games this season for the defending World Series champs. He inked a five-year, $75 million contract extension this spring.

The Cardinals are also expected to get Lance Berkman (calf) back on Friday after a three-week absence.

Jharel Cotton to undergo Tommy John surgery

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Athletics right-hander Jharel Cotton will undergo Tommy John surgery, per an announcement on Saturday. Cotton initially experienced some elbow soreness during a Cactus League start earlier this week and was officially diagnosed with a strained ulnar collateral ligament and strained flexor muscle on Thursday. He’ll be out of commission until 2019 at the earliest.

This isn’t the first time Cotton has dealt with elbow issues. According to MLB.com’s Jane Lee, he had screws inserted in his right elbow after sustaining a stress fracture in 2013 and suffered some minor elbow discomfort again last fall. Prior to his diagnosis, the 26-year-old was poised for his third run with the A’s in 2018. He pitched his first full season with the club in 2017, turning in a 5.58 ERA, 3.7 BB/9 and 7.3 SO/9 in 24 starts and 129 innings.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle adds that the team is open to adding pitching depth this spring, though they’ll wait to see if the price goes down on some free agents first. Barring that, right-handed long reliever Andrew Triggs could be tabbed to fill the fifth spot in the rotation.