Furcal's elbow shuts him down; next steps TBD

St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal will be out indefinitely with continued elbow pain.

Despite an injection earlier in the week, Rafael Furcal's right elbow pain has forced the shortstop to stop all baseball activity indefinitely. As a result of the inflamed ligament, the Cardinals have continued uncertainty at the shortstop position. It appears highly unlikely that Furcal can be ready for opening day.

The 35-year-old did not undergo surgery last August when being diagnosed with what was called a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament. The problem is often addressed by Tommy John surgery, which is followed by a six-to-eight month recovery for a non-pitcher. Furcal and the Cardinals chose a platelet-rich plasma injection procedure followed by rest and rehab over the winter after he missed the final month of the 2012 season and the playoffs.

Upon reporting to spring camp, Furcal explained that a bone spur was causing his pain. The club asserted the ligament healed over the winter, but an unanswered question currently is whether the ligament needs repair and/or would be weakened further if the spur was removed.

On Sunday morning, general manager John Mozeliak said on KMOX radio that Furcal is expected to undergo a second opinion examination this coming week. Mozeliak also asserted that no surgeon would have operated on Furcal last fall based on the diagnosis at that time.

At this point, surgery would likely end any hope of Furcal playing in 2013. He will become a free agent following the season.

The switch-hitting Furcal made two spring game appearances batting from the left side only, but did not play in the field since his throwing ability was limited.

Assuming Furcal cannot answer the bell for opening day, the Cardinals will have their seventh different opening shortstop in the last seven seasons. Ronny Cedeno and Pete Kozma appear to be the leading candidates to start at the position in Furcal's absence.

Update: On Thursday, March 7, the club announced that Furcal will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery the following week.

To see the Cardinals entire 40-man roster and 17 non-roster spring training invitees, check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation blog.

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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