Even if the Cardinals turn to Allen Craig as Albert Pujols’ replacement they may still have to find someone else to start on Opening Day.
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that Craig underwent right knee surgery before Thanksgiving and “the club is braced for the possibility that he won’t be available” for the beginning of the season.
According to Goold the injury dates back to Craig crashing into the wall at Minute Maid Park in Houston and the surgery involved having “a couple screws placed in his right kneecap to repair the damage.”
Craig played and played well through the injury, with a big September followed by four postseason homers, but his recovery timetable is expected to be 4-6 months. That would seemingly make him unlikely to return before mid-April and any kind of setback could cost him most of May as well.
It has been evident throughout the playoffs that Astros second baseman José Altuve’s right knee is bothering him. Altuve battled a right knee issue in July, then banged it up again in Game 2 of the ALDS and it’s been a problem ever since.
Manager A.J. Hinch said that if it were the regular season, he wouldn’t put Altuve in the lineup. Per MLB.com’s Richard Justice, the full quote:
He’s hurt. And if it was any other time of the year, he wouldn’t be in the lineup or wouldn’t be playing. He’d probably be on the DL. … But he’s showing up every day in good spirits, ready to go, giving 100 percent of what he’s got. He should be commended.
Hinch also said of Altuve, “His teammates revere him. The production that he’s doing on one leg is pretty incredible. And he’s trying not to talk about it. And therefore I am.”
During the ALCS, Altuve has hit .250/.368/.313 in 16 at-bats. He has just one extra-base hit but he has racked up three singles and drawn three walks while scoring four runs. Hinch has had Marwin González start at second base Games 3 and 4 and is doing so again on Thursday night in Game 5.