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Late last week stalwart catcher Yadier Molina returned to the St. Louis Cardinals following a 21-day absence due to COVID-19. More than a dozen Cardinals personnel, Molina included, tested positive for the virus, and forced the club to be shut down more than two weeks. St. Louis has doubleheaders aplenty on its schedule to make up the lost games.

On Monday, Molina took to Instagram to post a since-deleted photo with the caption “f— covid.” Molina was surrounded by several people in the photo with nary a mask to be found nor social distancing being practiced. He re-posted the same photo with a new caption later in the day:

“I wanted to make a few things clear with the picture I sent,” Molina explained in the new caption. “I know COVID is a serious virus, trust me, I had it for a week myself! Many of the people in the picture are the same way and we got together to celebrate beating COVID. The other people in the picture are tested routinely because they work directly at my house or are part of my family! I understand how this looks from the outside, and even though I do this most of the time, I will make sure to be more careful to wear masks and socially distance in the future. And, my message under the picture was to show the world that we can beat this thing! I know this won’t make everyone understand, but I hope it clears up some concerns people have. “FCOVID” Not because I don’t care about the protocols, but because this won’t beat us!”

The Cardinals released the following statement Monday afternoon. It does not specifically mention Molina:

“Given our experience with the outbreak, we have to be extra vigilant as we fight the coronavirus with the three basic principles of social distancing, wearing a mask, and proper hygiene. The Cardinals as an organization must emphasize this in any setting as we move forward. We will remind players and staff that these practices must be done at both home and on the road for us to be successful.”  

Given the team’s shutdown and Molina’s own bout with the illness, it probably wasn’t the best idea to post a photo that flew in the face of the league’s protocols, even if it was well-intentioned. MLB’s protocols are designed to limit interaction with people other than those who live with the player and, if nothing else, Molina’s photos brought his compliance into question.

Molina, 38, is hitting a delightful .314/.314/.314 through nine games this season. He is in the final season of his contract and has said he’s open to testing free agency.

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