After saying over the weekend that his ailing right elbow wasn’t “getting better,” Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal was examined by team medical director Dr. George Paletta today. However, it appears that we’re going to have to wait for word about his status, as MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Furcal will get a second opinion on his elbow from Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday.
Furcal was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament last August, but he opted to go the rehab route rather than undergo Tommy John surgery. The Cardinals were upbeat about the veteran shortstop leading up to spring training, but he felt renewed discomfort in the early days of camp and was recently shut down from baseball activities. If it is determined that Tommy John surgery is required, Furcal would miss the entire season.
Ronny Cedeno, who joined the Cardinals this winter on a one-year, $1.15 million deal, currently projects to open the year as the starting shortstop. Pete Kozma and Ryan Jackson are among the other in-house alternatives.
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.