JUPITER, Fla. — The St. Louis Cardinals are targeting March 14 for Yadier Molina’s first exhibition game appearance at catcher as the nine-time All-Star recovers from left knee surgery in December.

The 36-year-old started limited catching of bullpen sessions on Wednesday and took batting practice. Molina will appear in games as a designated hitter to start, and Manager Mike Shildt is hoping he can catch in a game against the New York Mets in two weeks.

Molina is the only catcher on the Cardinals’ 40-man roster. Francisco Pena, last year’s primary backup, and Matt Wieters are at spring training with minor league contracts.

“More than anything else, it was my first and only offer,” said the 32-year-old Wieters, whose deal was announced Wednesday.

A four-time All-Star with Baltimore from 2009-16, Wieters spent the past two seasons with Washington.

Wieters hit .238 with eight homers and 30 RBI last year, when he was sidelined between March 31 and April 12 with a strained left oblique muscle and between May 10 and July 9 with a strained left hamstring.

YANKEES: Closer Aroldis Chapman says he has recovered from the left knee tendinitis that bothered him during much of last season.

Chapman threw 21 pitches during a four-batter simulated game appearance on Thursday, his 31st birthday. The left-hander struck out three, including Giancarlo Stanton, and induced Gary Sanchez to hit a broken-bat grounder.

Chapman started feeling pain in the knee last May and went on the disabled list from Aug. 22 to Sept. 19.

“I’m healthy and feel really good,” Chapman said through a translator. “I felt normal out there. Everything went well.”

He was 3-0 with 32 saves and a 2.45 ERA over 55 appearances last year, averaging 99 mph with his fastball, which was down from 100 the previous year and 101 in 2017.

The closest J.A. Happ came to violating the 20-pitch clock in a 11/3-inning, 38-pitch spring training debut against the Pirates was with 4 seconds remaining to Corey Dickerson during the first inning.

At 22.0 seconds between pitches last year, Happ ranked 21st out of 78 with 150 or more innings, according to Fangraphs.


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