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Rafael Furcal to get second opinion on elbow from Dr. James Andrews

Mar 4, 2013, 7:00 PM EDT

Rafael Furcal Getty Getty Images

After saying over the weekend that his ailing right elbow wasn’t “getting better,” Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal was examined by team medical director Dr. George Paletta today. However, it appears that we’re going to have to wait for word about his status, as’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Furcal will get a second opinion on his elbow from Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday.

Furcal was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament last August, but he opted to go the rehab route rather than undergo Tommy John surgery. The Cardinals were upbeat about the veteran shortstop leading up to spring training, but he felt renewed discomfort in the early days of camp and was recently shut down from baseball activities. If it is determined that Tommy John surgery is required, Furcal would miss the entire season.

Ronny Cedeno, who joined the Cardinals this winter on a one-year, $1.15 million deal, currently projects to open the year as the starting shortstop. Pete Kozma and Ryan Jackson are among the other in-house alternatives.

  1. mscxvd - Mar 4, 2013 at 7:19 PM

    I have a feeling that no matter what happens if he comes back he wont have that killer arm anymore.

  2. stephenolszewski - Mar 4, 2013 at 7:45 PM

    Usually when you hear Dr. James Andrews it’s never a good thing

  3. salvomania - Mar 4, 2013 at 7:47 PM

    I think Raffy may be ready for his “Old Yeller” moment….

  4. tuberippin - Mar 4, 2013 at 9:30 PM

    I’m still surprised that he thought it was a good idea to try and rehab a torn UCL instead of just opting for the surgery in the first place. Surgery is never any fun, but the odds of him completely recuperating all the strength and stability in his elbow without surgery were probably astronomical to begin with.

    • jwbiii - Mar 4, 2013 at 9:36 PM

      But the diagnosis was that he had a strain and not a tear.

      • tuberippin - Mar 5, 2013 at 12:12 AM

        They initially diagnosed it as a UCL sprain (Grade 2). A Grade 2 sprain of the UCL stretches the ligament out a lot but does not cause a complete tear. However, once the ligament is stretched in such a manner, it is usually just a matter of time before some slightly unnatural movement (such as throwing a baseball sidearmed or overhand) will fully compromise it and then you will definitely need surgery.

        (Sidenote: in this case, even though they diagnosed it as a “strain” of the elbow, it was actually a “sprain”, being that it involved a ligament rather than a tendon; that said, the terms are normally pretty interchangeable)

        I understand the Cards’ and Furcal’s reluctance to opt for surgery, particularly since I figure Furcal’s motivation was to play out the last year of his contract, retire, and then perhaps ponder surgery if it was still a nagging injury. However, it’s something that often does not fully mend on its own. This is enhanced if it’s a Grade 2 instead of a Grade 1 sprain, as was the case for Raffy. I’m certain that a Google search will show that non-surgical treatments of a Grade 2 or 3 UCL injury can often result in issues such as the inability of the arm to regain its previous level of strength, as well as overarching issues with accuracy in any kind of throwing motion; stiffness in the elbow joint, and potentially issues involving the nerves of the arm, which can cause numbness and make it even harder to throw a ball.


        This does open the door for the Cards to bring in Jason Bartlett, though. I don’t recall having seen anything about him getting a deal with a team. Aside from him, it’s a barren wasteland for shortstops…there’s Bartlett, Felipe Lopez (eugh), Cristian Guzman (meh), and Ryan Theriot (meh x2). I have to assume they go with Pete Kozma in the short-term…can Descalso play short?

      • okwhitefalcon - Mar 5, 2013 at 1:03 AM

        I suspect Kozma is the guy right now, all subject to change of course.

        There’s really nothing out there, we all know Cedeno sucks and they apparently think Ryan Jackson sucks even worse.

      • paperlions - Mar 5, 2013 at 7:02 AM

        Bartlett is horrible.

        I’m not sure why they won’t give Jackson a chance. Scouts say he has a plus-plus glove at SS….as long are you aren’t getting any offense out of the SS (and none of their current options can hit), they may as well play the best defensive player.

      • okwhitefalcon - Mar 5, 2013 at 10:25 AM

        From what Derrick Goold said yesterday (I’ll dig up a linky) they think it was more of Kozma “surging past Jackson” at both the plate and in the field than Jackson regressing or falling out of favor within th organiztaion.

        A quote from Goolds chat yesterday addressing the subject:

        “Timing worked against Jackson, as did the situation he was thrown into. Let’s chart the calender. Jackson comes up to the majors and is put at second base with Jaime Garcia on the mound. He struggles with a couple groundballs from a position he had not played. Not a good game. While Jackson is in the majors, set as a back-bencher, Kozma moves into shortstop and plays there regularly. So when Furcal goes down, the Cardinals go with the player who has been playing shortstop the most regularly AT THAT MOMENT. Jackson hadn’t been. He’d been on the bench in the majors. Kozma had. Voila! The rest is September history. Kozma takes off giving the opportunity to play and Jackson slips down the depth chart. The review of Jackson’s defensive play in Memphis and his work at the plate was not as hearty as it was for Jackson coming out of Springfield. There was some thought that his range was not enough for the position in the majors and that the speed of the game was going to limit him. Seems to me he wasn’t given much of a chance to show one way or the other, and now Kozma has surpassed him. That last part of the explanation is important. Jackson may not have dropped in the Cardinals’ estimation. Kozma just surged ahead of him.”

        And link to the entire chat, it’s a good read:

      • spudchukar - Mar 5, 2013 at 11:34 AM

        Yeah Jackson is reputed to have a plus glove, however he also has a minus bat. Appears to be the kind of guy who pitcher’s can knock the bat out of his hand. I figure it is Kozma’s position to lose. But the Cards have known this for awhile. Hopeful that Furcal could avoid surgery but not counting on it.

        I, for one, don’t blame anyone here. First off, Furcal can’t be blamed, cause even if he had chosen to undergo the knife last Fall, he still would be out for the whole season and at his age, that is more meaningful, especially when his contract expires at the end of 2013. Actually, if he chose to be selfish, he could have had the surgery, sat out 2013, collected his cash and then presented himself healthy and sound for the new 2014 season.

        With the plethora of viable youngsters in the minors, the Cards have plenty of trade bait come June if the Kozma experiment fails, and I for one hope that the St. Louis brain trust, holds off until they know for sure what is needed.

        And the Descalso option isn’t horrible. The guy certainly has the arm and range the position requires, it is just his inexperience there that shows at times. So the current trio, plus Ryan who supposedly can handle the job defensive and who probably ought to start out in Memphis, should suffice.

        Offensively, the Cards should be fine even with little help from the short stop position. Lets, not forget in 2012 things were more foreboding, and that year worked out OK.

    • stlouis1baseball - Mar 5, 2013 at 9:05 AM

      Descalso can definately play short. In fact…dude can play anywhere in the infield.
      Probably has the best glove on the team. Which I don’t know is saying much.
      Their middle infield has been decidely week for a while now.
      But Descalso’s bat is his issue. Perhaps with more consistent AB’s on a game in game out basis that will improve. Their middle infield is going to be the achilles heel all year.
      Everyone saw (or sould have seen) this coming.

      • tuberippin - Mar 5, 2013 at 3:39 PM

        Well, it seems that any way you slice it, shortstop is going to be an offensive sinkhole for the Cards barring a trade. Kozma isn’t much of a hitter, Descalso can’t hit well either (reminds me of a more versatile Skip Schumaker), Ronny Cedeno isn’t much of a hitter either, and neither is Ryan Jackson. Maybe Kozma takes a step forward, but there’s nothing in his minor-league profile to suggest that he’ll be a good major-league hitter. Furthermore, anyone who is brought in from free agency is an equally-large gamble in regards to their hitting.

        They could try and shoehorn a player into the SS position like they did with Allen Craig at 2B a couple of years ago, but that’s probably a poor idea.

  5. mithrilsoul - Mar 5, 2013 at 12:09 AM

    “But the diagnosis was that he had a strain and not a tear.”

    Strains ARE tears. That is the medical definition of a strain–torn muscle or tendon tissue. So to say he had a “partial UCL tear” or a “UCL strain” is really to say the same thing.

    • paperlions - Mar 5, 2013 at 7:04 AM

      Yes, but strains are minor tears that will heal on their own. Things commonly referred to as tears are severe or complete tears that will not heal on their own.

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