JUPITER, Fla. -- The next time the Cardinals take the field, Rafael Furcal won't be with them.
After an off-day today, the Cardinals will resume Grapefruit League play Wednesday, but Furcal will be getting a second opinion on his ailing right elbow that day.
"We'll probably have him see Dr. (James) Andrews on Wednesday," said Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak on Monday. Andrews has offices both in Pensacola, Fla., and in Birmingham, Ala., but the site of Furcal's visit will be in Pensacola. Mozeliak said he had worked out most of the details with Furcal's agent, Paul Kinzer.
After Furcal suffered a torn ligament in his elbow last Aug. 30, Mozeliak said the doctors who examined Furcal in the aftermath didn't feel surgery was necessary, which was fine with Furcal because he was adamant that he didn't want it anyway. So, in Mozeliak's mind, the Cardinals weren't really rolling the dice.
An MRI test taken in November showed marked improvement in the elbow, and Furcal came to camp fully expecting to play soon in the exhibition season. Now, he has hurt his arm again making a sidearm throw last Thursday. Furcal appears to have new ligament damage on top of a bone spur (Furcal received a shot for that), and pending what Andrews says, Furcal surely won't be playing by opening day and perhaps not at all this season.
"The probability of him being able to play on opening day (April 1) is a long shot," admitted Mozeliak.
But Mozeliak said there was no second-guessing to be had on whether Furcal should have had surgery or not after last season.
"I don't decide if people have surgery or not," he said. "I'm not a doctor. I'm a general manager. I can tell you that the information we received was that he did not require surgery. Doctors (including Andrews) that reviewed his MRI and his situation believed that the best thing for him was rest. That's what we did.
"Could we have found a doctor to operate on him? Possibly. But that's not what the doctors who reviewed his situation thought.
"And, then based on the MRI that he received in November, it was very encouraging that the process of rest had worked. The healing had almost been completed.
"You never know what's going to happen. None of us can be 100 percent confident in how to predict things. But second-guessing the approach of how this was handled is not fair."
Mozeliak said it was his understanding now that surgery won't necessarily be recommended this time, either. But he didn't want to speculate, pending the second opinion being received. Dr. George Paletta, the Cardinals' medical supervisor, met with Furcal on Monday afternoon.
"We've sent many players to Andrews who don't have surgery," said Mozeliak, although Andrews did operate on Furcal's shoulder when Furcal played in Atlanta.
But, Mozeliak said, "Furcal's situation is up in the air. We don't know the answer as we sit here on March 4. I can envision us by mid- to late week that we'll have some finality of directionally where we're going. Right now, we're in that great area of unknown."
But this time it seems that Tommy John surgery is more of a likelihood than last year.
What may be less unknown is that Pete Kozma will be the Cardinals' shortstop on opening day, just as he was in every game of the playoffs last year and for most of September, when he hit .333.
Kozma dropped to .409 for the spring after going nothing for two Monday. But he did not stand out in a crowd as the Cardinals were two-hit by six Minnesota pitchers in a 7-0 Twins win.
Ronny Cedeno, the free agent acquired as insurance, is hitting .125.
Manager Mike Matheny, who probably doesn't expect Kozma to hit .333 again this year, said, "The first place you start is you've got to catch the ball. Anything offensively we get is going to be a bonus."
The Cardinals would seem to have enough offense to carry a light-hitting shortstop, although Matheny said, "You don't want to put a basement or a ceiling on it. You just need a guy who helps with what the bigger vision is.
"But we do have a very strong offense. That's not to say whoever takes that spot can't add to that. It may not be a 25- or 30-home run guy. It's doing the little things right and making plays."
Matheny, asked if he would take what he saw of Kozma last fall, said, "I think anybody would.
"Probably the best baseball we played was when we had Pete. That's very encouraging and exciting what he'll look like."
Matheny said he also has liked what he's seen of Kozma's of confidence this spring. "Without question," said Matheny.
"I think he looks like a different player. But it didn't take him long. As soon we gave him a chance last year he looked like a different player. He never looked overwhelmed. He looked like he could play the position.
"You get a little success, typically that sets you up for more. He just proved to himself what I think he always knew. He wanted to prove to everybody else that he could play at this level."
Kozma, the club's No. 1 draft pick out of an Oklahoma high school in 2007, hit just .236 in his minor-league career, but he said Monday, "I never doubted myself.
If he had, he said, "I'd probably be home with a 9 to 5 job."
As confident as Matheny says he is and as confident as Kozma said he always was, Mozeliak said he has seen enough that the shortstop position will be in good hands.
"The sample we received from Pete Kozma last year was very encouraging and the spring he's had to date has been very positive," said Mozeliak. "He's playing with confidence and energy as if he could be the big-league everyday shortstop.
"I feel good about where he is."
From last year at this time to now, Mozeliak said, "Pete Kozma has really redefined himself."
Mozeliak said he didn't feel the need to search for a shortstop in the marketplace.
"I don't think the market is to going to bear what you might consider as a true upgrade," said Mozeliak. "That's not to say we won't be 'eyes-opened' and 'ears-opened' between now and opening day and now and the trading deadline.
"But we have confidence in someone in this camp being our everyday shortstop."
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