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.

Joey Votto: “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently.”

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We’ve poked fun often at the spring training trope of players showing up to camp in the “best shape of [their] life.” Reds first baseman Joey Votto has turned that entirely on its head. Talking about his offseason, the 2010 NL MVP said, “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently. We did all the testing and I am fatter,” Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto, of course, wasn’t trying to say he’s not in shape; he was just using some of his trademark self-deprecating humor.

Votto did get serious when discussing the state of the rebuilding Reds. As Buchanan also reported, Votto said, “I think we’re starting to get to the point where people are starting to get tired of this stretch of ball. I think something needs to start changing and start going in a different direction. I’m going to do my part to help make that change.”

Votto, 34, is under contract with the Reds through at least 2023, so he still has plenty of incentive to help see the rebuild through. He has been nothing short of stellar over the last three seasons. This past season, he hit .320/.454/.578 with 36 home runs, 100 RBI, and 106 runs scored in 707 appearances across all 162 games. Votto led the majors in walks (134) and on-base percentage and led the National League in OPS (1.032).

Despite Votto’s presence, both FanGraphs and PECOTA are projecting the Reds to put up a 74-88 record. The club had a pretty quiet offseason, expecting to enter 2018 with largely the same roster as last year.