NYY@STL: Molina cuts down Gardner stealing second

TORONTO -- Manager Mike Matheny's aim to give Yadier Molina a second consecutive day off may have been foiled by the last-minute necessity to sub him in as a designated hitter on Sunday. But regardless, Matheny's hope is that a series away from catching provided Molina with the mental respite needed to release some brewing frustration.

Molina entered Sunday batting .128 over the team's last 13 games. That included a 3-for-13 start to the road trip. The results were positive on Sunday, as Molina -- added to the lineup only because Matt Holliday (lower back tightness) had to be pulled at the last minute -- went 1-for-3 with a walk and a single in the Cards' 5-0 win over the Blue Jays.

"Yadi was excited to get in there today," manager Mike Matheny said. "He found a couple things today while he was swinging in [batting practice]. [Having to remove Holliday] happened last minute. He saw that opening and stuck his foot in it, and I'm glad he did."

The decision to let Tony Cruz start behind the plate for a third consecutive game was made, Matheny said, after the Cardinals' win on Saturday. Cruz contributed a two-RBI performance and caught Shelby Miller's second career shutout, as the Cardinals stopped their two-game slide.

With an off-day ahead on Monday, Molina will have had four days off from catching when he returns to the field on Tuesday.

"We're going to unleash the beast on Tuesday," Matheny said. "When he is going good, it is hard to talk him into having one of those days [off]. I get that. This is a better conversation when things aren't going well, like right now -- because he realizes it. He sees it. He's tried everything else except, 'Let me take a step back and take a breath.'

"He's tried hitting extra. He's tried shutting down hitting. He's tried cage stuff. Once again, I don't think he's being a real good evaluator of how he's doing. He's just had a couple games here where it's more mental, where he's just fatigued -- mentally fatigued from grinding in his mind, and that's just because he cares so much about this team."

Holliday a late scratch before finale with Jays

STL@TOR: Holliday makes a leaping grab to steal a hit

TORONTO -- Matt Holliday, who has started every game since April 21, was a late scratch from the Cardinals' lineup on Sunday due to lower back tightness.

Holliday was slated to serve as the team's designated hitter for the second time in the series against the Blue Jays and showed no signs of any back problems while blasting balls into the stands during yet another impressive batting-practice showing.

But minutes before manager Mike Matheny was to submit his lineup card to home-plate umpire Manny Gonzalez, he received word that Holliday's back had tightened. That led to a quick substitution -- Yadier Molina for Holliday as both DH and three-hole hitter.

It was just the third time in Molina's career that he started and batted third in the lineup.

Holliday, 2-for-14 on this road trip, has dealt with on-and-off back tightness for years. Typically, he has returned with little time missed. He will have the benefit of having a second straight day off, too, with the team's scheduled off-day before beginning a two-game series with the Rays on Tuesday in St. Petersburg.

Members of the Cardinals' medical staff had already planned to travel to Florida for the upcoming series, and that fortuitous timing will allow Holliday to get further evaluation of his back before a decision is made as to whether he'll miss any more time.

"He already walked by," Matheny said after the team's 5-0 win over the Blue Jays, "and said he's going to be fine."

Wong gets third straight day off

KC@STL: Wong notches first career homer with slam

TORONTO -- Kolten Wong remained out of the Cardinals' lineup for the third straight day on Sunday. But with his left shoulder improving, he was not only available off the bench but also optimistic of starting the team's next game on Tuesday against the Rays.

Wong hasn't played since coming out mid-game on Thursday with persistent shoulder soreness related to a diving play from earlier in the week. He abstained from swinging a bat the last two days in order to give inflammation time to subside. Feeling improvement from ice and treatment, Wong returned to the batting cages on Sunday and joined his teammates for on-field batting practice.

The results were all positive.

"I can already tell [it's better], because before just reaching for things and stretching out my shoulder I could feel a pinch," Wong said. "Now, I don't. I feel great."

Matheny said he felt comfortable calling upon Wong as a pinch-hitter on Sunday, if necessary.

"Today, we probably could have fired him in there," Matheny added. "[But] we have the benefit of the day [off] tomorrow."

Since the Cards coasted to a 5-0 win over the Blue Jays, Wong was not pressed into service.

Adams, others making progress in recoveries

NYY@STL: Adams plates a run with a ground-rule double

TORONTO -- Matt Adams, sidelined since May 29 with a strained left calf, is "moving well," according to reports given to manager Mike Matheny. Adams is poised to start a rehab assignment with Triple-A Memphis as early as Monday.

Adams will be eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on Friday, and should be ready to do so as long as there are no setbacks over the next few days. Before then, the first baseman will be able to play in as many as four rehab games with the Redbirds.

Kevin Siegrist was eligible to return from the DL on Sunday, but is further behind Adams in his rehab work. Siegrist, sidelined with a left forearm strain since May 24, remained in St. Louis and has been throwing off flat ground while the team has been on the road. Matheny said Siegrist was scheduled to throw a bullpen session soon.

Because of the amount of time away, Siegrist will need at least a short Minor League rehab assignment later this month before returning to the big league club.

Joe Kelly (left hamstring strain) also returned to the mound late last week, and has been throwing lightly off of it back at Busch Stadium. Kelly's absence is nearing the two-month mark.

Minor matters

TORONTO -- Here are some notes from around the Cardinals' farm system:

• After making one start each at high-A Palm Beach and Double-A Springfield, left-hander John Gast made his season debut at Triple-A Memphis on Saturday. Gast, who had season-ending shoulder surgery last season, allowed one run on four hits and a walk in a five-inning start. He struck out three.

• The organization will be represented by five players in the upcoming Midwest League All-Star Game. Low-A Peoria outfielder Ronald Castillo was selected to start for the Western Division team. Shortstop Juan Herrera, outfielder CJ McElroy Jr., right-hander Chris Perry and righty Arturo Reyes were also chosen for the June 17 showcase game.

• The Cardinals also had five players named to the Florida State League All-Star Game. Lefty Kyle Helisek, infielder Breyvic Valera, catcher Casey Rasmus, and outfielders Charlie Tilson and Starlin Rodriguez were selected from the high-A Palm Beach club. That All-Star Game, which will be played in Bradenton, Fla., is on Saturday.

• Palm Beach celebrated its third walk-off win in four days on Saturday, with a 5-4 victory over Clearwater. The Palm Beach Cardinals have won a season-high five straight and can climb back to .500 with a win on Sunday.

Worth noting

• With two off-days coming in a four-day span, the Cardinals had the option of altering their rotation order or skipping someone altogether this week. Instead, they will keep their rotation as is and take the opportunity for extra rest. The team is wrapping up a stretch of 20 games in 20 days on Sunday.

• Andrew Morales, selected by the Cardinals with the 71st-overall pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, pitched the University of California-Irvine past Oklahoma State University into the College World Series with a complete game on Saturday. The right-hander struck out eight, walked two and scattered five hits in UC-Irvine's 1-0 win.

• This week's upcoming series in Tampa Bay will give Molina his first opportunity to play against brother, Jose, since 2011, when Jose Molina was with the Blue Jays.