ST. LOUIS -- Switching to a more cautious approach for an injury that, if pushed, could collapse Allen Craig's left foot and cost him playing time next season, the Cardinals announced their cleanup hitter will not play in the division series and won't be available until later in October, if at all.
Craig, who has spent three weeks recovering from a foot sprain, was diagnosed Thursday with a Lisfranc injury, a displacement in the foot that includes ligament damage. Craig showed initial signs of the injury when first examined, but the team tried "aggressive" rehab, general manager John Mozeliak said, and the foot did not improve.
"It's kind of on the fence right now," Craig said. "We have to take it slow. Doctors told me I need to heal and at this point, today, I would risk further injury if I went out there and played. It's not something you can play sore through. If that was the case I would be out there yesterday. That's just not the case."
The Cardinals will enter the postseason, then, without their everyday cleanup hitter and the team leader with 97 RBIs. Rookie Matt Adams, who set a Cardinals rookie record with eight home runs in September, will remain as Craig's replacement at first base and cleanup. Craig's absence depletes the Cardinals' bench, leaving it without a proven power source. The Cardinals and Craig said that he might be available as a pinch-hitter, at least, if the team is able to press on to the National League championship series.
The Lisfranc injury, one more common in football, requires a healing period of at least one month to six weeks. If Craig were to try to run or jar the foot when fielding, he would risk the ligament giving way and his arch flattening. The surgery and recovery to repair that damage would consume part of next season, Mozeliak said.
The Cardinals have reached out to NFL teams for insight on treatment and recovery.
"As optimistic as we were when it first happened, the reality is that we have to take a very conservative approach here," Mozeliak said. "To try and rush him back or push him to get back is going to put him in peril."
Craig's left foot remains in a boot, a variation on what he's worn since injuring his foot scrambling back to first base in Cincinnati on Sept. 4. He had x-rays taken Thursday as part of his followup exam, and those confirmed that there is no fracture in the foot. Craig has been able to maintain some baseball activity throughout his convalescence. He has sat in a chair and thrown to keep his arm strength in place. He has also taken swings off the batting tee to keep his swing and timing sharp, as best he can.
Craig, 29, finishes the regular season with a .315 average, a .457 slugging percentage and 13 home runs. His .454 average in 130 at-bats with runners in scoring position fell shy of the high set by George Brett with a .469 average with runners in scoring position in 1980.
"It's a difficult spot. It's frustrating all the way around," Craig said. "I'm going to be the best teammate I can and focus every day on getting back for some playoff games."
SATURDAY'S GAME MOVED UP
The threat of storms Saturday night has moved the Cardinals game up to 3:15 p.m. from 6:15 p.m. The Cardinals said that all fans who purchased a ticket for the Saturday game will be mailed a voucher good for a complimentary ticket to a game during the 2014 season, regardless of whether they attend today. The Down Syndrome Association of Great St. Louis' annual Walk in the Park will be rescheduled as well to start 1:15 p.m.
WAINWRIGHT STARTS SATURDAY
After toying with schedules and possibilities for most of the week, manager Mike Matheny announced Friday that ace Adam Wainwright would start today and Joe Kelly would slide to a start in Sunday's season finale. Wainwright remains on a five-day schedule with today's start and would be on turn to start the first game of a National League division series Thursday.
As the weekend approached, the Cardinals acknowledged that Wainwright could start Saturday, Sunday or not at all. The righty didn't want to skip a start entirely and mess with a routine. He said as much to Matheny in a meeting this past week.
With a victory today, Wainwright (18-9) can tie Washington's Jordan Zimmermann for the league lead in wins this season. Matheny declined to reveal his rotation beyond acknowledging Wainwright as the Game 1 starter. Shelby Miller, who is 10-3 at home, would be in line for a Game 2 start.
Left fielder Matt Holliday started Friday, his second consecutive game after missing three games with back spasms that Matheny said the team will have to monitor. ... The Cubs planned to remove starter Travis Wood after the first inning regardless of the score because the inning would be the lefty's 200th of the season. They allowed him to reach the milestone and then call it a year.
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