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Thumb injuries to Yadier Molina, Brandon Phillips shake up NL Central

Mike Oz
Big League Stew

The news wasn't good for the St. Louis Cardinals and their cornerstone catcher Yadier Molina. Molina has a torn ligament in his thumb and will miss 8-12 weeks after surgery, according to Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak.

Nor was it good for the division rival Cincinnati Reds, who confirmed Thursday that their star second baseman Brandon Phillips also needs thumb surgery to repair a ligament. The Reds say he'll miss six weeks.

That's two surging teams in the NL Central with two thumbs down.

League-wide, that's four MLB stars who have been sidelined this season by torn thumb ligaments. It's not the Tommy John epidemic, but it's something that at least four GMs have cursed this season. Bryce Harper and Josh Hamilton both sustained torn thumb ligaments in April, both on head-first slides. Harper missed 57 games and Hamilton missed 48.

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Bryce Harper injured his thumb in April while sliding head first. (AP)

Bryce Harper injured his thumb in April while sliding head first. (AP)

Molina hurt himself sliding into third base Wednesday night, but he wasn't going head first. The Cardinals called it a sprain at the time, but further examination showed that Molina's injury would require surgery. That will take place Friday.

The Reds lost Phillips on Wednesday night as well, as he dove to field a ball in the gap between first and second base. At first It looked as if Phillips had injured his wrist, but it was later deemed a thumb injury.

Both injuries figure to shake up the NL Central, where the Cards and Reds had both been making a charge at the first-place Milwaukee Brewers. Heading into Thursday's action, the Brewers were up two games on the Cardinals and two and a half on the Reds. On July 1, though, St. Louis was six and a half back while Cincinnati was seven back.

Unless the Cardinals make a move — A.J. Pierzynski and his smartphone are available — Tony Cruz figures to takeover the everyday catching duties. He's played in 21 games this season and is hitting .255 in 51 at-bats. He's been with the Cardinals since 2011 but has never played more than 51 games in a season.

The Reds have utilityman Skip Schumaker listed as their No. 2 second baseman, but back-up shortstop Ramon Santiago played there Thursday against the Cubs. The timing here is tough for the Reds, who had finally gotten healthy and were playing well after a miserable run of early season injuries. To make matters worse, outfielder Billy Hamilton and pitcher Homer Bailey were both injured the past two games.

With the Cardinals and Reds hurting, the Brewers have to feel better about their chances of holding on to their division lead. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Pirates, four and a half back and in fourth place, have to sense a great opportunity in front of them.

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Mike Oz is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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