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.
Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area hints that the Giants may be done with outfielder Hunter Pence. It’s not clear just how seriously the club is contemplating such a decision, but there are six days remaining on Pence’s rehab assignment, at which point they’ll be able to recall him, reassign him to the minors or release him.
The 35-year-old outfielder has struggled to make a full recovery after spraining his right thumb during the first week of the season. Pence bounced back for a 17-game run with the Giants in April, during which he slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 with one double and one stolen base in 61 plate appearances, but was eventually placed on the disabled list with recurring soreness in his finger. He currently sports a promising .318/.359/.388 batting line with four extra-base hits (including a grand slam) over 92 PA in Triple-A Sacramento.
Despite his recent resurgence in Triple-A, the Giants may not need the additional outfield depth just yet. Mac Williamson, who was recalled in the wake of Pence’s DL assignment, has already cemented the starting role in left field and is off to a strong start at the plate as well. Of course, if the Giants decide to say a premature goodbye to their veteran outfielder (who, it should be said, helped them to two World Series championships over the last seven seasons), it’ll cost them the remaining balance on his $18.5 million salary for 2018.