STL@CIN: Molina launches a laser solo home run

TORONTO -- Sensing growing frustration from Yadier Molina regarding his lack of recent offensive results and the team's overall poor play, manager Mike Matheny chose to unplug the veteran catcher from Saturday's lineup for what he described as a mental day off.

It was the second straight day that Molina was absent from behind the plate; he served as the team's designated hitter in Friday's series-opening loss.

"I think he's just beat down like a lot of guys are with the fact that we're not playing how we should play, how we want to play and how he wants to play," Matheny said. "I think it's more of just a frustration that is overbearing and overwhelming when you want to win so badly and you want to do your part so badly and none of it is working.

"I see he cares so much that it's beat him down. Anybody is susceptible to just being fried sometimes. … You take a guy with natural leadership characteristics, he wants to be the guy to make it all happen."

Lately, Molina has had a particularly tough time making much happen at the plate. He was hitting .330/.360/.477 entering the Cardinals' most recent homestand. His average has since dropped to .293, as Molina has hit .128 over the team's past 11 games, of which the Cardinals have won just three.

Molina had just one extra-base hit during that stretch and has hit into a fair amount of bad luck.

"We've been trying to help him push and grind through this," Matheny said. "At some point, you have to take a break and take a breath. It's investing into the future. That adds to his frustration, too, because when things aren't going well, the first thing he wants to do is jump in and keep fighting. "

Matheny said that he considered playing Molina at first base Saturday before eventually deciding that a full day off could be more beneficial. He had encouraged Molina to limit his pregame work, too, though the catcher was out taking batting practice with the club.

The Cardinals have been more proactive this season in giving Molina days off to help keep him physically strong deep into the season. That included reducing the amount of catching he did even in Spring Training. That preventive work seems to have benefited Molina from a physical standpoint thus far.

Worth noting

• Second baseman Kolten Wong remained out of the Cardinals' lineup for a second straight day Saturday while nursing a sore left shoulder. All indications are that Wong is improving, but the Cardinals are still not certain whether the infielder will make an appearance in this series.

• With pitching coach Derek Lilliquist away at his daughter's high school graduation all weekend, bullpen coach Blaise Ilsley is serving as interim pitching coach in the dugout and will be the one making mound visits. With Ilsley unplugged from the bullpen, assistant hitting coach David Bell is stationed there to make sure all runs smoothly.

• Tate Matheny, the oldest of manager Matheny's five children, has been invited to try out for the prestigious USA Baseball Collegiate National Team later this month. Tate Matheny, who just wrapped up his sophomore season at Missouri State University, will participate in the Team USA training camp beginning on June 19. In the 10 days preceding that, he will be playing in the Cape Cod League. Tate Matheny was a 23rd-round pick by the Cardinals in the June 2012 First-Year Player Draft but opted not to sign.