ST. LOUIS -- Initial fears that Yadier Molina had suffered a fracture when he was hit on the hand on Tuesday were quickly assuaged by clean X-rays after the game. And three days later, Molina was back behind the plate.
The Cardinals' catcher took a 96 mph fastball off his left hand/wrist in the ninth inning on Tuesday, prompting his exit from that game. Molina sat out of Wednesday's series finale in Arizona, but he was cleared to return on Friday after he reported no lingering tenderness or soreness.
It was a best-case scenario for the Cardinals, who count Molina as one of the team's most valuable pieces.
"Yadi looks great," manager Mike Matheny said. "Today, he came in feeling great."
Molina got off to a bumpy start in his return, as the catcher was crossed up with starter Jaime Garcia on two occasions in the first inning. He was assessed with a pair of passed balls that resulted in two early runs for the Braves.
While Matheny inserted Molina back into the lineup, he took David Freese out. The day off was a planned one for the third baseman, who, through Wednesday, had started 21 straight days.
"He was tired," Matheny said. "That's the most he's ever played. Those back-to-back days [off] mean a lot."
Berkman takes BP, return date uncertain
ST. LOUIS -- Though Lance Berkman had projected Friday as the day he'd come off the disabled list, the slugger will take at least one more day to heal his strained left calf.
Berkman joked that he "didn't want to upstage [Tony La Russa] with [his] return to the game," but in actuality, the decision not to be activated from the disabled list came after Berkman told the Cardinals' staff that he felt some soreness in his left calf when he pushed through sprinting drills on Wednesday.
"It was just a little more sore than I wanted it to be," Berkman said. "I still think it's not something that's going to be that much longer. I've already wasted three weeks of the season. Now that I've spent three weeks on the DL, I want to make sure that it's right before I come back. It doesn't feel like I would like it to feel."
Berkman, who has been on the DL with the ailing calf since April 19, elevated his workouts on Wednesday in what he thought would be one final test. He more than doubled the sprinting exercises he had been doing, but didn't feel his leg respond as he was expecting it to.
"It just got fatigued," Berkman said. "I think that demonstrated that I'm not quite ready to come back and get in there every day."
The Cardinals continue to characterize Berkman's status as day to day. The first baseman did participate in batting practice on Friday, but no one has set a certain date for his return.
"We want it to be 100 percent," manager Mike Matheny said. "[We don't want to] get him back here when he's close and then have any setbacks that put him back on the DL."
Lohse optimistic about making next start
ST. LOUIS -- Two days after suffering a left hamstring strain while running the bases, Kyle Lohse remained optimistic that he'll be ready to make his scheduled start on Tuesday.
Lohse characterized his hamstring as "a little sore" on Friday, but that didn't keep the right-hander from playing catch and taking swings in the batting cage. He continued to receive treatment on his leg, as well.
The Cardinals should have a better gauge on Lohse's status on Saturday, since that is when he is scheduled to throw his in-between-starts bullpen session. If Lohse is unable to throw, the Cardinals are likely to begin seriously thinking about a contingency plan.
Lohse doesn't anticipate that being necessary.
"I really don't see any issues, besides dealing with soreness in there," Lohse said. "I've tested it for strength and all is good. It's just a mild strain. I don't know exactly what happened. It just felt like a real bad cramp."
Lohse pitched one more inning on Wednesday after initially feeling the discomfort. He allowed one run on seven hits in the five-inning outing.
Linebrink waiting for green light to play catch
ST. LOUIS -- Scott Linebrink (right shoulder capsulitis) said on Friday that he is hopeful of being cleared to resume his throwing program sometime during the current five-game homestand. Linebrink, who has been on the disabled list since March 30, had to stop throwing early last week after inflammation was causing some discomfort in his throwing shoulder.
Linebrink was close to heading out on a Minor League rehab assignment when he had to be shut down. Since then, he has continued strength and stretching exercises and is now just waiting on the Cardinals' training staff to clear him to play catch.
"I was hoping when this all started that I would be back by May," Linebrink said of the recovery process. "We want to make sure we have all that inflammation out before we start, because the last time really showed us that trying to push through this is not really the answer. They want to make sure we have all that behind us."
It's unlikely, now, that Linebrink will be ready to pitch in St. Louis this month. He'll return to throwing on flat ground first, after which he'll throw a series of bullpen sessions in St. Louis. The Cardinals will then send him out on a Minor League rehab assignment, during which he will need to make several appearances before rejoining the Cards' bullpen.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.