7/15/2013 12:57 A.M. ET
Yadier returns to lineup, excited for All-Star Game
By Brian Hedger / Special to MLB.com
CHICAGO -- After getting a day off from starting behind the plate, his third in the last week,Yadier Molina was back in the Cardinals lineup on Sunday night at Wrigley Field.
The All-Star catcher made his presence immediately felt, lacing an RBI single in the first inning.
Molina has been dealing with an issue with his right knee, which was surgically repaired in 2007, but he said it's improving by the day. Molina added he's looking forward to the All-Star Game festivities in New York to start the week.
"You get to know a lot of people," said Molina, who plans to start behind the plate for the National League after being the NL's top vote-getter. "You spend time with other players and try to find out what they do and try to socialize with them and just be with them. At the All-Star Game, you've got a bunch of talent around and you can get information from [them] to help yourself get better."
It will also be another special memory for Molina, who's racked up quite a few in his 10-year career. He's already backstopped the Cardinals to a pair of World Series championships, and this will be Molina's fifth All-Star appearance.
"You know, every time you make an All-Star team or every time you win the World Series or whatever it is, it's a good moment for me and a good moment for my family," he said. "Any time you get those awards ... whenever you're finished playing, that's a memory you can have for the rest of your life."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is monitoring Molina's knee situation, but sounded more happy for his star catcher than concerned.
"It's got to be exciting for him," Matheny said. "Being the leading vote-getter, you know he wants to do that for our fans and all the fans who voted for him. It's a big deal."
Mujica replaces Wainwright on NL All-Star roster
CHICAGO -- Adam Wainwright wanted to give another deserving player the chance to play for the National League in the 2013 All-Star Game, and it turned out to be a teammate.
Thanks to Wainwright's decision not to play in the All-Star Game on Tuesday at Citi Field in New York, after being voted onto the NL roster by players, Cardinals closer Edward Mujica will instead suit up for the NL, according to a tweet from MLB's PR Twitter account.
The news broke during a game on Sunday night at Wrigley Field that Wainwright started against the Cubs, which was the reason he opted out. All-Star pitchers who made starts on Sunday were given the option of pitching a maximum of one inning or declining the chance and letting somebody else play.
Mujica, who earned the closer role this season, is 2-1 with a 2.20 ERA and 26 saves. In Sunday's 10-6 win over the Cubs, he came on in the eighth and allowed a pair of inherited runners to score and tie the game, resulting in just his second blown save all season. But after the Cards scored four times in the ninth, Mujica retired the Cubs in order for the victory.
Back in Spring Training, the Cardinals were looking for somebody to solidify the closer's role and take charge offensively as the team's leadoff hitter. Mujica earned the ninth-inning duties, while Matt Carpenter emerged as a mainstay atop the batting order.
Both are now on the NL All-Star roster.
"No question, we were searching [for a closer] at the beginning of the year, and there were times when we were struggling," manager Mike Matheny said. "The closer role is very different. You can play the hot hand, I believe, probably more in that leadoff role. I think you'd be able to get by with that, more so or more easily than closer-by-committee. That's tough to do."
Prior to Mujica joining the NL roster in place of Wainwright, the Cardinals had five All-Stars -- including catcher Yadier Molina and right fielder Carlos Beltran, who were voted in by fans as starters.
Matheny hoping extra rest benefits Holliday
CHICAGO -- Matt Holliday continued to show progress Sunday recovering from a right hamstring injury sustained while running out a ground ball on Thursday night at Wrigley Field.
Holliday stayed with the team this weekend and has been receiving treatment since leaving that game in the fourth inning. The goal is to use the past three days off combined with four more during the All-Star break to get him healthy enough to return on Friday in St. Louis against the Padres.
Holliday is day to day right now, but he hasn't taken batting practice and was not an emergency pinch-hitting option in the late innings of the Cards' 6-4 loss to the Cubs on Saturday night.
"We need to be real careful, so we can continue to progress and make sure we're aiming for that first day after the break," manager Mike Matheny said.
Matheny said that target date is realistic based upon reports he's getting from the team's athletic training staff.
"Every day, he's measured out in everything we've done to test it," Matheny said. "He's getting stronger and is feeling better and we've got to use those days [during the break] to our advantage."
Matheny made a slight lineup tweak for Sunday night's game related to Holliday's absence. Star right fielder Carlos Beltran, who'd been shifted into Holliday's third spot in the batting order, was slotted back into his more familiar spot, hitting second.
Allen Craig, one of the National League's top run producers, batted third. Craig came into the game hitting .312 with 20 home runs and 62 RBIs in 331 career at-bats against left-handed pitchers. Southpaw Travis Wood was on the hill for Chicago.
"It kind of gives us an opportunity to put somebody else in there [hitting third]," Matheny said. "David historically has been a guy that really does well against lefties. We're looking forward to seeing how it plays out."
Cards mulling what to do with prospect Martinez
CHICAGO -- Carlos Martinez looked good in an extended relief appearance on Saturday night against the Cubs in a 6-4 loss at Wrigley Field.
The Cardinals' top pitching prospect, who was just called up from Triple-A Memphis on Thursday, struck out two over two perfect frames. He kept the Cardinals within striking distance, and they nearly pulled off a late comeback.
Martinez's stuff, however, is what had people in Chicago talking, even a day later. He showed good velocity on his fastball, but also had great movement and dropped in a nice curveball to keep the Cubs off balance. The movement on his pitches is a trait that appears to come naturally and is something he's able to keep late into starts.
"That's what we've seen, and he's shown that in the past, too," manager Mike Matheny said prior to Sunday's finale. "He's a guy that will be able to hold it late in the game, and it's just effortless. The ball really jumps out of his hand without trying, more so than probably anybody else on the club."
The big question now is whether the Cardinals should keep Martinez in the bullpen as a long- or middle-relief option the rest of the season, or send him back to Memphis to continue developing as a starter.
"There's not a clear-cut way to value one [role] or the other," Matheny said. "We do really like what he brings as a starter. And for his development, it's better for him to be prepared to start and it gives us depth, too -- especially with other guys that can do the job in the bullpen. So, it's tough to weigh. We know that he wants to be here. We like having him here and think that he can help us, but there's more that goes into the decision."
For the short term, Martinez said he will head to St. Louis during the All-Star break and wait for the Major League season to restart, rather than going back to Memphis to get in another start.
Kozma gets crafty to snap out of slump
CHICAGO -- Pete Kozma came into the Cardinals' series finale against the Cubs ice cold at the plate and searching for any kind of hit he could get.
After lining out in the second inning to extend his hitless skid to 28 straight at-bats, Kozma finally broke through in the third. His two-out bunt single toward third base was his first hit since June 25 in Houston and put the Cardinals ahead, 2-1, after Yadier Molina scored from third.
If anybody on the Cardinals' roster needed something like that to happen at the plate, it was Kozma, who has continued to play superb defense through an offensive slump that sunk his batting average from .244 to .228 in just seven games this month.
"At bat, you've got a lot to think about, and then on defense, you've got the same thing," Kozma said before the game. "You've got the hitter to think about, the pitches, even the playing surface. It's just a mindset. You've got to separate the two. If something bad happens on defense, you can't take it to the plate with you. If something bad happens at the plate, you can't take it on defense with you."
Understandably, Kozma said he's looking forward to getting a few days off during the All-Star break and then coming back rejuvenated for the rest of the regular season. Getting the big bunt single in this game also can't hurt his confidence level.
"It's [going to be] the second half," Kozma said. "The first half is over, so we can start with a clean slate and go from there."
Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.