Tony Cruz

Yadier Molina hit off a tee for the first time since thumb surgery

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Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina took a big step today in his recovery from a pair of thumb surgeries, hitting off a tee for the first time.

Molina told Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post Dispatch afterward that things went well enough that he plans to hit live pitching in a batting cage and possibly even catch in a game within the next week.

Molina initially had surgery in November to repair a torn thumb ligament, but then needed a follow-up surgery two months later. His uncertain status played a big part in the Cardinals signing backup catcher Brayan Pena to a two-year, $5 million deal after years of barely using backup Tony Cruz to give Molina time off.

Opening Day remains the goal for Molina, but it’s possible the 33-year-old seven-time All-Star will begin the season on the disabled list even if there isn’t a significant setback in the recovery process.