DENVER -- When Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina takes his scheduled day of rest Tuesday, he'll be sitting on a comfortable lead in National League All-Star voting.
Leading Jonathan Lucroy by nearly 700,000 votes as of Monday's latest update, Molina seems like a lock to start his fifth Midsummer Classic despite trailing Lucroy in every offensive category. It's Molina's ability to manage pitchers, especially young ones, that puts the Cardinals' catcher a cut above.
Part of the reason for Molina's day of maintenance is because he's been "fighting to figure everything out offensively," according to Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. The other part is that left-hander Marco Gonzales will be making his Major League debut Wednesday on a short turnaround after a night game and Matheny considers having Molina behind the plate for that game against the Rockies is a must.
"It's great to have a smart catcher like Yadi, who knows how to maximize a young kid's stuff and what he's comfortable doing," said Matheny, who admires Molina because he isn't a control freak who feels obligated to tell an unseasoned pitcher, "If you follow me, I'll make it all right."
Instead, Molina adapts to that particular pitcher's preferences in order to make them feel comfortable, much like he did early on with Michael Wacha and Shelby Miller.
"Yadi has done it a number of times with our young pitchers," said Matheny. "He [tells] them, 'You pitch your game, I'll catch on, I'll help you and I won't let you do anything stupid.'"
Gonzales will already feel right at home in Coors Field, as a native of Fort Collins, Colo., but if Molina is able to keep him relaxed and focused on the mound, it will only reaffirm his status as the best all-around catcher in the NL.
"That's a huge security blanket for a young pitcher -- to know I can go be myself ... but they're watching in case I get off track a little bit," said Matheny.
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday, July 3, at 10:59 p.m. CT. The 2014 All-Star Game will be played at Target Field on Tuesday, July 15 on FOX.
Miller doesn't think back spasms will cost him a start
DENVER -- Cardinals right-hander Shelby Miller is expected to make his next start after being removed with two outs in the third inning of Tuesday night's 10-5 loss to the Rockies with what manager Mike Matheny called "mid-back spasms."
"He seemed to be pretty confident that he'd have a good chance of being ready to go for his next start," said Matheny.
Miller was visibly grimacing after feeling "a nagging little sting" in his back while facing Jorge De La Rosa. Miller said the pain would jolt up his back as he extended his arm to pitch.
Having already walked four batters, the Cardinals were alarmed when Miller fell behind 3-1 in the count against the Rockies' pitcher and decided to have a meeting on the mound. Miller had sent two pitches far inside and another well above the strike zone in the at-bat.
Matheny and the training staff observed carefully as Miller threw a few practice pitches. Seeing no apparent improvement, the Cardinals elected to pull Miller.
Matheny noted postgame that Miller began to feel signs of back tightness in his bullpen sessions prior to his start. Miller added that even before his back flared up in the third, he still "never felt quite right the whole time," which explains the three runs he allowed in the first inning and his five walks.
"I just kind of never really got loose," Miller said. "I could still throw the baseball, but that last-at bat I was throwing four-seams that were cutting three or four feet. That's when I felt it the most."
Miller complained of feeling tightness in his hip flexor following his previous start against the Phillies. At first, he shot down speculation that the two could be related before reconsidering.
"I don't know if that might have caused the problem [Tuesday] because they say it runs up to the middle of your back," Miller said. "It was almost kind of I guess the same sting. ... I felt like I could have kept going, but at the end of the day, it's [Matheny's] call and I always respect anything he does."
Miller admitted to still feeling "a little sore" in the clubhouse following the loss. He expects to be sore Wednesday as well but doesn't anticipate it lingering beyond that.
"Just like any other soreness we have in our arms, we'll get it taken care of and ice it and do it everything we need to do to get it back to normal," said Miller.
Left-hander Nick Greenwood came on to replace Miller and proceeded to walk De La Rosa with one pitch before closing out the inning with a Charlie Blackmon flyout. The walk was charged to Miller because he started the at-bat.
Miller finished his evening with six hits and five walks against him, throwing 73 pitches in 2 2/3 innings. The Rockies got to him for three earned runs, all in the first.
Gonzales, Ramsey selected to Futures Game
DENVER -- Two Cardinals Minor Leaguers earned roster spots in the 2014 MLB Futures Game with their outstanding 2014 seasons. One has even performed so well that he'll be making his Major League debut before then.
Double-A Springfield left-hander Marco Gonzales and center fielder James Ramsey were selected to represent the Cardinals in the 16th edition taking place on All-Star Sunday. Both were to be a part of the U.S. squad.
Gonzales was also selected to start the Texas League All-Star Game on Tuesday but skipped that exhibition to make his Major League debut on Wednesday against his hometown Rockies.
"I'm sure which one he'd choose," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny joked.
Gonzales was also replaced on the U.S. team Wednesday by Twins prospect Trevor May. The Cardinals' 2013 first-round pick out of Gonzaga, Gonzales began the season at Class A Advanced but earned a quick promotion with a 1.43 ERA in 37 2/3 innings. He struck out 46 against 33 hits and 10 walks in 38 2/3 innings with Springfield.
Ramsey, the Cardinals' first-round pick in 2012 out of Florida State, has spent his entire season in Double-A. Through 51 games, Ramsey leads Springfield in average (.307), on-base percentage (.389), slugging (.550), home runs (12) and runs scored (40). He's also tied for first in RBIs with 31 and has yet to commit an error.
"What a great compliment for [Gonzales]," said Matheny of the selection to the Futures Game. "And for James, too, with the great year he's had."
Cody Ulm is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.