Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Loss of Furcal Not a Crisis for Cards; It Was Not Realistic to Expect a Whole Lot from Him Anyway

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Loss of Furcal Not a Crisis for Cards; It Was Not Realistic to Expect a Whole Lot from Him Anyway

Article excerpt

Six months of suspicion gave way to Thursdays reality. Rafael Furcals role with the Cardinals has officially morphed from catalyst to absentee shortstop.

Fans and media might rightly ask which got stretched more Furcals ulnar collateral ligament on Aug. 30 or the optimism surrounding this winters nonsurgical recovery.

The Cardinals gambled on this. They lost. But they didnt necessarily go bust.

Thursdays announcement that Furcal will require ligament replacement surgery next week served as the ultimate I-told-you-so moment. Losing Furcal represents an inconvenience, an irritant and may further slow the pulse from a transitional clubhouse. It should not equate to a seasons death knell. Welcome to the Pete Kozma Era.

The teams internal projections offered 100 starts from Furcal as a best-case scenario for 2013. Cardinals general manager Mozeliak acknowledged Thursday he never dismissed the possibility that Furcal would arrive in camp still compromised. When Furcal couldnt swing with conviction righthanded or throw from the hole or brush his teeth without discomfort, it became obvious that this was no best- case scenario.

I was at the point given the last three weeks where I thought the likelihood of him playing for us was decreasing each day, said Mozeliak, who began receiving dire projections from his training staff last week.

Depending on Kozmas success, the clubs passive stance regarding shortstop will either be forgotten or become a season-long narrative.

Furcal suffered a high-level Grade I sprain (a stretch but no tear) on Aug. 30. Team doctors offered a range of options including surgery that they believed could make Furcal available by late May or early June.

Furcal rejected surgery as an option and sought out Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion.

Andrews thought it possible a platelet-rich plasma injection around the ligament might expedite healing quickly enough to make Furcal available if the Cards reached the World Series. Furcal embraced the nonsurgical option and exhibited improvement when given an MRI in October and November. The teams medical staff noted improvement but apparently cautioned that it did not assure Furcals availability for opening day. The sprain migrated to a Grade II (partial tear) within the past two weeks.

Engaging in something of a semantic exercise, the Cardinals insist no doctor prescribed surgery for Furcal last September.

Fair or not, the teams overly optimistic projections regarding past player injuries magnifies the public recoil regarding Furcal.

Mozeliak is less concerned about public blowback than how the rest of his team projects.

Early returns on veteran safety net Ronny Cedeno are less than glowing. (Note: Cedenos $1.2 million contract is not guaranteed.) The Cardinals judge prospect Ryan Jackson less favorably than many third-party analysts who deem him a better option than Kozma. …

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