(KSDK Sports) - When you finish fourth in the MVP balloting the previous year, it's a sure bet that expectations for the next season will be high. Such is the storyline for Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina. Molina's 2013 campaign was his careerbest. He batted a solid .315 with 22 home runs whiledriving in 76 runs,all while reminding people that he is an elite defensive catcher as well.

Coming into Spring Training, Molina was also saddled with new responsibilities as team leader. The absence of ace Chris Carpenter thrust that role onto Molina's shoulders, like it or not.

And it's this leadership that makes Molina so valuable.

But, soon he'll be leaving Cardinals camp to begin playing in the World Baseball Classic. Molina will join fellow teammate Carlos Beltran as they bring their veteran leadership to Team Puerto Rico for this year's classic. But the break from camp doesn't bother manager Mike Matheny, who says Molina is way ahead of schedule in his spring workouts, and is sure bet to be in great shape for Opening Day.

Click the above video link to hear Matheny's comments.

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