VIERA, Fla. — St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal suffered a recent setback while rehabbing from a partially torn ligament in his right elbow and has stopped all baseball-related activities.
Furcal reported progress earlier in the week and had hoped to begin playing in the field as early as Saturday. But things changed later in the week, and an MRI taken Friday revealed Furcal has an inflamed ligament.
He’ll seek a second opinion this week, likely from Dr. James Andrews. Surgery could force him to miss the entire 2013 season.
“He’s just not feeling good and kind of went in a bad direction,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “We don’t know the severity of it, but it wasn’t good news.
“I’m not getting too far ahead in any one direction, but we know that he’s done quite a bit of rehab and to go backwards isn’t necessarily a good sign.”
The 35-year-old Furcal missed the final month of the regular season and playoffs last fall because of the elbow injury. But he rehabilitated the elbow, and an MRI in late November showed the ligament had healed.
“The progression points along the way had indicated that things were looking positive,” said Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak. “Having said that, we knew that he was never tested (in the field). We knew that he wasn’t in an aggressive throwing program to get it to a point where it was 100 percent healed or not.
“Part of that is because rest was part of what we wanted him to do. There was always some risk going into this past offseason and this spring that things wouldn’t go well for him.”
Furcal took at-bats in Grapefruit League games but has yet to play in the field. He was also dealing with a bone spur issue in the elbow, but Matheny said Sunday that the issue was likely ligament related, which would be a bad sign.
“Right now, he’s just having pain standing around,” Matheny said. “With the way he’s talking, it sounds like the ligament may be problems. We don’t know for sure, but things are pointing in that direction.”
Asked about what Furcal could do to treat the issue, Matheny said: “More rehab or surgery, but I don’t want to get too far ahead because we still don’t have enough information.
“We did take a turn in the wrong direction.”
Even if Furcal elects for rehab rather than surgery, it would seem to be a long shot that he’s ready to play by Opening Day.
The Cardinals have Pete Kozma and free-agent addition Ronny Cedeno as backups at shortstop, and Matheny said both would get the majority of work there in the short term. But he wouldn’t rule out Daniel Descalso moving to short. Descalso is battling for playing time at second base with Matt Carpenter.
“We’re acting like the chapter is written,” Mozeliak said. “We don’t even know that yet.”
Said Matheny on the Cardinals’ possibilities at shortstop moving forward and the chances Descalso gets a look, “I’m not ruling out anything, but we’ll have to see just kind of how things play out. Pete has done a nice job, and Ronny had a couple tough plays yesterday but overall he’s done a real nice job in the field and he’s doing some work. . . .
“Those two guys are still going to get the majority of the time at shortstop, but we don’t rule anything out.”
Furcal has one year and $7 million remaining on a two-year deal he signed with the Cardinals before last season.