Cards backup catcher Brayan Pena (knee) to start season on DL

PITTSBURGH -- The St. Louis Cardinals announced Saturday that backup catcher Brayan Pena will start the season on the 15-day disabled list and undergo arthroscopic surgery to remove a loose body from his left knee.

Pena will fly back to St. Louis on Sunday and likely undergo the surgery in the next couple of days.

Pena said he first injured his knee by slipping on a dugout step while he was carrying his catcher's gear before a spring training game.

"It's sad. It really makes me mad, because you work hard and you try to be in the best position to help your team and then something like that happens," Pena said. "It's not something related to the game or that you did something. It's because it was a wet dugout that got me hurt. Now, I have to go under the knife because of that, so it's very sad."

The Cardinals signed Pena over the winter to a two-year, $5 million contract to be the backup to Gold Glover Yadier Molina. Pena, 34, batted .273 with no home runs and 18 RBIs last season for the Cincinnati Reds. He'll be replaced on the 25-man roster by 30-year old catcher Eric Fryer, who has played 65 major-league games with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Minnesota Twins.

The Cardinals said Pena likely will be out 2-4 weeks if surgeons don't discover any damage other than the loose body. The injury likely will compel manager Mike Matheny to play Molina frequently early in the season. Molina, who had two off-season surgeries on his left thumb, was cleared to swing at pitches in games just two weeks ago.

The Cardinals, who were beset by injuries in 2015 and still managed to win 100 games, have lost shortstops Jhonny Peralta (torn thumb ligament) and Ruben Tejada (strained quadriceps), as well as relievers Mitch Harris (nerve) and Jordan Walden (shoulder) to injury this spring. The Cardinals at least have four off days in the first three weeks of the season.

"If there's a time of the year for something like this to happen and we talked about the same thing with Tejada, you're talking about significantly fewer games missed, compared to a 2-3 week stint in the middle of the year," Matheny said. "Hopefully, this is something we can get ahead of. Otherwise, it would have been just delaying the inevitable."