The Cardinals lost their third straight game on Thursday night in the nation’s capital. And they might have also lost their starting shortstop.
According to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Rafael Furcal is headed back to St. Louis to undergo an MRI for “confirmation” of an ulnar collateral ligament in his right (throwing) elbow.
The 34-year-old All-Star told reporters after Thursday’s 8-1 loss to the Nationals that he felt a “tingle” and then a “pop” before exiting in the sixth inning. Daniel Descalso subbed in, and would likely serve as the Cardinals’ primary shortstop down the stretch if the MRI shows what everyone thinks it will. Semi-prospect Ryan Jackson could be recalled from Triple-A Memphis for depth.
Furcal has started at short in 116 of the Cardinals’ 131 games this season while batting .264/.325/.346.
Descalso, a decent defender all around the infield, owns a .245/.316/.334 career slash line.
Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.
Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.
Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.