Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch confirms what was feared last night: Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal has a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow and is done for the season.
Strauss reports that no decision has been made yet on Furcal going under the knife, but a torn UCL is the injury fixed by Tommy John surgery. Recovery times are quicker for position players than pitchers, although a big part of Furcal’s game is his arm strength at shortstop and the 34-year-old’s status for next season would definitely be in doubt. He’s under contract for $7 million in 2013.
Because the injury occurred with almost zero time for the Cardinals to trade for a veteran shortstop Daniel Descalso figures to be the primary fill in, although they also called up light-hitting minor leaguer Pete Kozma from Triple-A and for tonight at least he’s in the starting lineup. Kozma was a first-round pick in 2007, but has always struggled offensively in the minors and hit just .232 with a .647 OPS in 131 games at Triple-A this season.
Furcal finishes the season hitting .264 with five homers, 12 steals, and a .671 OPS in 121 games.
With a 6-1 win over the Twins in Sunday’s season finale, the Royals clinched the best record in the American League, which nets them home field advantage in the ALDS and ALCS. The Royals stand at 95-67 while the Blue Jays, who lost on Sunday, finish at 93-69.
95-67 is the Royals’ best record since finishing 97-65 in 1980, when they lost the World Series to the Phillies. Their division title is their first since 1985.
In the ALDS, which starts on Thursday, the Royals will host the winner of the AL Wild Card game between the Astros and Yankees. They are looking to avenge last year’s World Series loss, in seven games, to the Giants. The Blue Jays will host the Rangers in the other ALDS series.
Both the Astros’ and the Yankees’ fates were decided before their own games had completed on Sunday. The Rangers defeated the Angels, which clinched a Wild Card spot for the Astros. Then the Astros dropped Sunday’s season finale to the Diamondbacks, which clinched the first AL Wild Card slot for the Yankees. The Yankees are on their way to a loss against the Orioles as of this writing, but that will not affect anything now.
The Astros were in a 3-3 tie with the Diamondbacks in the seventh inning, but reliever Chad Qualls served up a two-run home run to Paul Goldschmidt. That would prove to be the deciding factor in a 5-3 loss.
The Yankees are losing 7-4 to the Orioles behind a subpar start by Michael Pineda and a shaky performance by the bullpen.
The MLB postseason opens up with the Yankees hosting the Astros on Tuesday in the AL Wild Card game. The winner moves on to face the Royals in Kansas City in the ALDS.