When St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal first tore his ulnar collateral ligament last August a decision was made to forego surgery, hoping that rest and rehabilitation would be enough for him to return healthy this Spring. As he’s continued to experience pain and discomfort in his elbow and after consulting with famed orthopedist Dr. James Andrews earlier this week, the team announced this morning that Furcal will indeed undergo Tommy John Surgery.
Furcal is expected to miss at least 6-8 months, but at 35 years of age it’s tough to predict the impact that this will have on the remainder of his career.
St. Louis was optimistic enough about Furcal’s return that they didn’t look to acquire another shortstop this offseason. Pete Kozma would appear to be the favorite to take the bulk of Furcal’s playing time at short. Kozma hit well when he joined the club after Furcal went down, hitting .333/.383/.569 in 82 PA down the stretch last season, but he’s done little in his minor league career to suggest that he can develop into a solid everyday Major Leaguer. The Cardinals might catch lightning in a bottle for a brief period with him, but he won’t replicate what a healthy Furcal is often capable of from an offensive standpoint. Kozma will hold his own defensively and appeared likely to make the team anyway in a utility role.
Ronny Cedeno is the other potential in-house option, having signed a one year deal with the club over the winter to battle with Kozma for the bench job. Cedeno fits a similar mold to Kozma – reliable defense but little offense.
Furcal hit .264/.325/.346 in 531 PA last year before getting hurt, a drop from his career averages. He’ll earn $7 Million this season while on the sidelines and will be a free agent next offseason.