During last night’s game against the Washington Nationals, Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal felt a “pop” in his right elbow. After being unable to throw the baseball without pain, Furcal was removed from the game and replaced by Daniel Descalso. Furcal flew back to St. Louis and underwent an MRI test to determine the cause of his pain and the news was bad—-Furcal has a tear in his right ulnar collateral ligament. Pending examination by the Cardinals physician Dr. George Paletta, a decision has not been made whether Furcal will require Tommy John surgery for the tear.
Regardless of whether Furcal will require surgery, it is a definite that Furcal is lost to the Cardinals for the remainder of the season. Furcal was placed on the 15 day DL and Pete Kozma was recalled from Memphis and added to the roster. Kozma starts tonight at shortstop for the Cardinals.
While the prospect of Tommy John surgery for Furcal sounds dire for his prospects with the Cardinals, in actuality Tommy John surgery for a position player does not require the 12-18 months of rehab that is required for a pitcher having the same surgery. Barring complications, rehab for Tommy John surgery for a position player is normally 6 months. This means that if Furcal has the surgery relatively soon, he could be ready to return by Spring Training. While this is certainly no fun for Furcal, it does bode well for Cardinal Nation seeing Furcal return healthy for the 2013 season.
The decision to recall Pete Kozma to replace Furcal, at least in the short term, is a little puzzling however. While in Memphis, Kozma was primarily relegated to playing second base rather than shortstop, in favor of the better hitting, and arguably better defensive glove of Ryan Jackson. Jackson spent a short time with the major league club after the Cardinals traded Tyler Greene to Houston, but played no innings at shortstop and had only 9 plate appearances with the Cardinals. Jackson was optioned back to Memphis on August 29 to make room for the recall of Bryan Anderson as a third catcher after the recent injury of Yadier Molina in a home plate collision in Pittsburgh. Jackson was hitting .271 at Memphis with an OPS of .773. By contrast, Kozma is hitting .232 at Memphis with an OPS of .647. While Jackson was just recently optioned to Memphis, the placement of Furcal on the DL would have enabled the Cardinals to immediately recall Jackson, because the rule requiring a player optioned to the minors to remain for 10 days before recall is waived when he is recalled to replace an injured player. One would think that the loss of a crucial player like Furcal in the lineup would require his replacement to be the best available. It is certainly questionable that Pete Kozma fits that description.
Jackson will be available to return to the Cardinals after the season at Memphis has concluded. Memphis did not make the play offs and the last day of their regular season is Monday, Sept 3. Hopefully, we will see Jackson join the Cardinals after that.