MIAMI -- Yadier Molina has been a pleasant surprise on offense for the Cardinals.
The four-time Gold Glove Award-winning catcher is arguably the best defensive backstop in the Majors, but he hasn't necessarily been known for his power during his nine-year career. That doesn't seem to be the case this season, however, with Molina hitting a career-best .317 and belting 12 home runs -- two shy of his career high of 14 set last season -- before the end of June.
"He continues to just improve, which seems hard, really, for a guy I've never been shy saying is the best in the game," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He just doesn't rest on that. ... If there's something in his game that doesn't put him at the top level he keeps working until he figures it out."
Molina, who was given the day off behind the plate in Wednesday's series finale, has been on a tear, going yard in three consecutive games -- the first time he has done that since July 22-25 last season. On Monday, he crushed a two-run home run in the ninth inning to tie the game and cap a five-run rally. During Tuesday's game, he launched a three-run shot in the first inning to give the Cardinals an early advantage they didn't give up.
"I'm just trying to hit the ball; that's it," Molina said. "Seeing the ball and trying to hit the ball. That simple."
The ability for Molina to turn hitting from a perceived weakness to one of his strengths is just the latest in what Matheny referred to as the evolution of Molina as a player.
"He's amazing. I think a lot of people are paying a lot more attention to what he does at the plate this year," starting pitcher Kyle Lohse said. "It's amazing the game plan he puts together out there [defensively] ... and it makes it easier when you're out there on the mound knowing he's back there and has his head in the game defensively as well as offensively."
'Good day' for Carp includes long-toss session
MIAMI -- Injured right-hander Chris Carpenter took part in a long-toss session Wednesday afternoon at Marlins Park.
"He looked good," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "With him, it's more of the recovery and how he feels following [throwing]."
The long-toss session, which also included some flat-ground throwing, comes two days ahead of when the team said the righty would resume work on his road to recovering from a shoulder injury that has sidelined him since Spring Training.
"I'm excited for him whenever something goes positive," Matheny said. "We also don't want to put the weight of the world on his shoulders, and all of a sudden, it turns into some sort of timetable. It's just a good day. We're happy about it."
Carpenter, who threw a batting-practice session last Friday in Kansas City, was expected to throw another session Monday afternoon in Miami. That plan was shelved when Carpenter woke up that morning and didn't feel like he had enough strength in his throwing shoulder, according to Matheny.
Matheny said Monday the plan was to give Carpenter a few days off until the team returns to St. Louis to see how his shoulder has responded and figure out the next step from there. Even after Wednesday's throwing session, the team will reconvene with Carpenter on Friday to determine what's next in the rehab process.
"We're going to go home, and then Friday, probably reevaluate what's going on and get back into what I was doing," Carpenter said. "I don't know if I'll throw a bullpen Friday or play some catch and then a bullpen on Saturday. We're just going to go ahead and reevaluate on Friday and see how I'm doing."
Anheuser-Busch, Cards team up for Ballpark Village
MIAMI -- The Cardinals and the Cordish Companies announced a partnership with Anheuser-Busch to help with the $100 million first phases of Ballpark Village in downtown St. Louis.
The licensing and sponsorship agreement will allow Anheuser-Busch, the world's largest brewing company, to showcase its history in St. Louis as well the global reach of its brand. The venue will include a restaurant featuring authentic German cuisine, more than 100 beers on tap -- both national and international -- as well as nightly live music, an outdoor beer garden and a rooftop deck with views overlooking Busch Stadium.
"We are excited to have Anheuser-Busch join the Cardinals and the Cordish Companies as an anchor partner in the first phase of Ballpark Village," Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III said in a release. "Anheuser-Busch has always been a great partner of the Cardinals, and their commitment to this project will strengthen an already-great corporate relationship."
The first phase of Ballpark Village will also include "Cardinals Nation" -- which will have a Cardinals-themed restaurant, a Cardinals museum, Cardinals Hall of Fame and a rooftop deck overlooking the stadium with ticketed seats. The initial phase of Ballpark Village, which is expected to begin construction later this year, will also have a central plaza known as the St. Louis Live! Entertainment Plaza that will feature a 40-foot diagonal LED viewing screen.
Ballpark Village will cost approximately $550 million to complete and will span seven city blocks and 10 acres just north of Busch Stadium. The facility will feature retail, entertainment, office and residential buildings.
"Anheuser-Busch and the Cardinals are not only two of the most recognizable brands in the world, they are also both St. Louis institutions," Cordish Companies chairman David S. Cordish said in the release. "Their involvement makes Ballpark Village one of the most exciting projects in the country, while also ensuring that it is built on a successful foundation that is uniquely St. Louis."
Utility man Allen Craig was given the day off Wednesday and Matt Carpenter started at first base. Manager Mike Matheny said it was a scheduled day off for Craig, who is still getting treatment on his wrist after injuring it sliding into a base in Detroit at the beginning of the Cardinals' nine-game road trip.
Tom Green is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.