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.

Giants place Hunter Pence on 10-day disabled list with right thumb sprain

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The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.

Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).

Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.