Nick Punto might need season-ending elbow surgery

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Bad news for the first-place Cardinals.

Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch brings word that 33-year-old utilityman Nick Punto is headed back to the disabled list and could be facing season-ending elbow surgery.

Punto has spent more time on rehabbing injuries this season than he’s spent on the active roster, and he air-mailed an awkward throw from third base in the late innings of Saturday’s win against the Reds.

The former Twin has been fairly productive when healthy, batting .267/.343/.389 with eight extra-base hits and 12 RBI in 90 at-bats. And manager Tony La Russa has used him frequently as a defensive replacement for some of the Cardinals’ flimsier infielders.

Albert Pujols launched the Rebirds back into sole possession of first place on Saturday in Cincinnati. The Cards are one game up in a weak division and boast an impressive offense. But this is a setback.

Buster Posey likely to undergo season-ending hip surgery

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Giants catcher Buster Posey will likely undergo season-ending surgery on his ailing right hip, which has bothered him since May, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Executive VP of baseball operations Brian Sabean said it’s a “safe assumption” that Posey will go under the knife. The procedure would clean out bone spurs and address the labrum, which is the soft tissue around the hip socket.

Posey didn’t start Sunday’s game and went 1-for-6 on Monday against the Mets. He’s batting .286/.360/.386 with five home runs and 40 RBI in 439 plate appearances this season. It will go down as his least productive season among those in which he has appeared in 100 games.

Nick Hundley would take over full-time catching duties if Posey were to have his season cut short. Hundley has performed decently, hitting .247/.296/.452 with nine homers and 30 RBI in 199 PA.