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USATSI

The St. Louis Cardinals activated catcher Yadier Molina from the injured list ahead of their Saturday game against the Colorado Rockies, the team announced. In a corresponding move, the Cardinals demoted backstop Ali Sánchez to Triple-A Memphis. Sánchez will not report to Memphis, however, and will instead remain with the big-league team as a member of the traveling taxi squad.

Molina, who will celebrate his 39th birthday come July, has not appeared in a game since April 26 because of a strained tendon in his right foot. Prior to being placed on the shelf, he was off to a tremendous start to the year, batting .323/.366/.631 in 71 trips to the plate. Molina has not been an average or better hitter over the course of a full season since 2018, when he most recently made the All-Star Game. Last season, meanwhile, represented one of his worst offensive outputs since the early portion of his big-league career.

The Cardinals went 8-3 during Molina's absence while relying almost exclusively on youngster Andrew Knizner behind the plate. St. Louis pitchers have performed better with Knizner than Molina this year, but it's worth noting that: 1) the performance gap is likely the product of a small sample size; and 2) Knizner entered Saturday hitting .208/.276/.264 on the season. Molina, of course, has a well-deserved reputation as one of the game's best defensive catchers.

The Cardinals are 19-14 on the season, giving them a two-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central. They've won or split each of their last four series, and they entered Saturday's game with a 5-2 mark in May. The Cardinals' plus-20 run differential is the best in the division, and is the fourth best in the National League overall.