6/15/2013 5:32 P.M. ET
Back in Miami, Mujica relishing time with St. Louis
By David Villavicencio / Special to MLB.com
MIAMI -- Edward Mujica is back in familiar surroundings, but wearing very different colors.
The Cardinals' closer returned to Marlins Park this weekend for the first time since being traded on July 31, 2012, for Minor League infielder Zack Cox. Mujica, who spent 1 1/2 seasons in Miami, was happy to be back for a few days.
"I feel good being back here," Mujica said. "I have my house here and I get to stay in it for these three days. I really am happy to be back here at Marlins Park."
Mujica's return allowed him to catch up with several of his old teammates, many of whom he has not seen since last July.
"You never forget your teammates," Mujica said. "I had a lot of good relationships with the guys in that clubhouse. I always talk to them when I see them and I'm really happy to see those guys this weekend."
While Mujica reminisced about his time as a Marlin, he has been outstanding as a Cardinal. He has appeared in 29 games with St. Louis this season entering Saturday, allowing just three earned runs over 26 1/3 innings.
"From the minute I got to St. Louis, they told me directly what my role would be and what the situation I needed to respond to was," Mujica said. "I think that made a huge difference for me as a player because the confidence they showed in me, and the communication they've had with me has been phenomenal."
The 2013 campaign has been even better for Mujica. The 29-year-old has filled in for injured closer Jason Motte with fantastic results. Mujica has a 1.82 ERA and 27 strikeouts to go with his 19 saves in 19 opportunities.
"The most important thing is confidence," Mujica said of his success as a Cardinal. "Confidence has been the key. When you're confident, you can focus better and pitch smarter in key situations."
Cardinals reliever Randy Choate was Mujica's teammate with the Marlins. The veteran left-hander believes Mujica has benefited greatly from having a defined role in St. Louis.
"He really knew that last year the seventh inning meant Mujica," Choate said. "He knew when to be ready and how to prepare. This year he's got the ninth. He prepares and knows he is going to be at the end of the game, and I think it makes a big difference to know his role."
Mujica has enjoyed his time in Cleveland, San Diego and Miami, but the eight-year veteran feels lucky to be with St. Louis.
"This is a team that plays really hard every day, tries to win and has fun with the game," Mujica said. "I am fortunate to be a part of it."
Yadi admired, including by opposing pitcher
MIAMI -- Yadier Molina is one of the most recognizable players in baseball.
A four-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove Award winner, Molina has become a fan favorite throughout the world. He came across one of his biggest fans in the second inning of Friday's 5-4 loss to the Marlins when rookie Jose Fernandez stepped up to the plate.
"One of the special moments during the game was the first time I went up to hit," Fernandez said. "Molina was catching. I look up to that guy. When they won the World Series and I saw him catch, I said, 'Man, I wish one day I could shake his hand.' I was in high school back then.
"I told him, 'Hey, it's a pleasure to be playing against you.' He said, 'No, it's my pleasure.' That was pretty great."
Molina had never met Fernandez before the at-bat, but he was sure to tell the 20-year-old that he had been following him.
"Jose has tremendous talent, and what I have seen from him has been really impressive," Molina said. "He shows that he wants to win and wants to get better. I let him know that I admire his game and enjoy watching him pitch. I told him to keep working hard and making the most of his talent. It's great to see another Latin player having success in the big leagues. I am really happy for him."
The Cardinals backstop has made the most of his talent this season, batting an NL-best .351 heading into Saturday's game against the Marlins. He has delivered numerous big hits, including a two-run single in the first inning Saturday to drive in the Cards' first runs of the day.
"With catching everyday, there is an added component that other guys don't have to go through," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It's a grind physically and mentally, but he does a nice job of separating his offense from his defense and maintaining a good approach at the plate."
Molina is doing something few catchers have achieved. Only three catchers have ever led their league in hitting -- Eugene "Bubbles" Hargrave (1926), Ernie Lombardi (1938, '42) and Joe Mauer (2006, 2008-09). But Matheny believes Molina is capable of achieving anything on a baseball field.
"I really stopped putting any limitation on what he can and can't do," Matheny said. "He just wills it to happen. Obviously you have to have the skill to make it happen, as well. If there is something that he thinks he can be better at, he's not going to stop until he can do it."
Carpenter shining as starting second baseman
MIAMI -- On a team full of standouts, Matt Carpenter has earned himself some deserved attention.
The 27-year-old has been one of the top hitters in the National League, ranking in the Top 5 in batting average (fifth), hits (fourth) and on-base percentage (fourth) heading into Saturday's game against the Marlins.
Carpenter, who has an NL-best 27 multi-hit games this season, credits his success to several factors that have helped him shine in his first season as a starter.
"It's a combination of playing every day and having another year of experience under your belt," Carpenter said. "That experience helps you make the adjustments you need, but getting the opportunity to play every day is definitely a big part of it."
A third baseman by trade, Carpenter has worked hard to adapt to second base. While he committed an error in Friday's game, it was only his second in 47 games at his new position.
"Every day is a new day and I am trying to continue to get better," Carpenter said. "It happened with a lot of work with me and [coach] Jose Oquendo this offseason. We spent a lot of this offseason working really hard at it."
Carpenter, who was not in the lineup Saturday, made 80 starts while appearing in 117 games last season. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is appreciative of how his second baseman is helping the club, but remains mindful of how much he plays Carpenter.
"For a young player that's never played every day in the big leagues, he's done a very good job of keeping himself going," Matheny said. "We've been very observant with watching how much he works. We've got a long way to go and we need him to be there for the long haul, so he will need a day every once in a while. Yesterday was just a frustrating day for him, so it's good to let him back off a bit."
David Villavicencio is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.