ST. LOUIS -- Tony Cruz has long bided his time sitting in the shadows of one of the game's best catchers, waiting for the infrequent opportunities to start while trying to continually improve at his craft.
His opportunity for everyday repetitions has abruptly arrived.
With Yadier Molina expected to be out for at least eight weeks after tearing a ligament in his right thumb, Cruz ascends into the primary catcher position. Audry Perez, recalled from Triple-A on Thursday, will serve as his backup. The Cardinals are open to improving their depth by acquiring a veteran catcher, but for now, Cruz is ready to step in.
"Tony has done a great job," manager Mike Matheny said. "We feel when he gets out there he gives us a chance to win. I think that's exactly what anybody out here would hope for. We've got faith in him, we've got trust in him, and now he just has to go out and continue to do what he's been doing."
Cruz made his 13th start behind the plate on Thursday, and the Cardinals had gone 7-5 in his first 12. With playing time so sporadic, Cruz has stayed mentally involved by going through pitch sequencing in the dugout during games. He and Molina often develop game plans together, and Cruz has gotten work with all the pitchers by catching their bullpen sessions.
"I have 100 percent confidence in him," Molina said of Cruz. "He knows what he's doing, he's got the ability to do it, and I have no doubt what he can do. Tony's smart, and he's a good player, a good hitter, a good catcher."
Cruz has contributed with the bat, too, hitting .293 with seven RBIs and an on-base percentage of .345 in his 12 starts. He served as the team's everyday catcher last season, when Molina missed two weeks with a knee injury. The club went 6-8 during that stretch.
Perez, who appeared in two games as a September callup by the Cardinals last season, will be ready behind Cruz. Perez was hitting .288/.288/.382 with 10 doubles, two homers and 21 RBIs in 44 games with Memphis before receiving this second big league summons. He arrived at Busch Stadium on Thursday afternoon.
Cards likely to option Lyons as Kelly returns
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals are expected to option left-hander Tyler Lyons back to Triple-A on Friday to make room for starter Joe Kelly to return from the disabled list and start against the Brewers.
Lyons, who was activated from the disabled list Monday, made his first appearance back with the Cardinals in St. Louis' 9-1 loss to the Pirates on Thursday night. The left-hander lasted three innings, allowing four hits, two walks and four runs (one earned) on 59 pitches.
Lyons made six appearances (four starts) with the Cardinals between April and May before straining his left shoulder. He had a 7.36 ERA in five Minor League appearances before rejoining the club this week.
Kelly will be making his first start since April 16, when he strained his left hamstring in Milwaukee. He fills the void in the rotation left by Marco Gonzales, who was optioned to Triple-A on Monday.
• With their 29th sellout at Busch Stadium on Thursday, the Cardinals pushed their season attendance over the 2 million mark. They join the Dodgers and Giants as the first teams in the Major Leagues to draw at least 2 million fans in 2014.
• Three pitchers from the Triple-A Memphis club combined to throw a four-hit shutout in a 1-0 victory on Thursday. Boone Whiting scattered two hits and struck out seven in a five-inning start. Dean Kiekhefer and Eric Fornataro each followed with two scoreless innings.
• On the same day the Cardinals learned that Molina would miss 2-3 months with a thumb injury, it was announced that Molina ranks among the most popular Major League Baseball player jerseys based on sales over the first half of the season. Molina, who is sixth on the list, is the only Cardinals player to dent the Top 20. Derek Jeter's jersey has been the most popular buy.
• Double-A catcher Cody Stanley homered twice in Springfield's 4-1 win on Wednesday. Stanley, now with 10 homers in 61 games, is batting .309/.363/.491 this season.
• FOX Sports 1 announced that it will televise the Cardinals' game in Milwaukee on Saturday. That means that all three of the Cardinals' upcoming games against the Brewers are slated to be shown nationally. MLB Network will televise Friday's series opener, while Sunday's game has been picked up by TBS.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Alex Halsted is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.