Rafael Furcal needs Tommy John surgery, out 6-8 months

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Rafael Furcal opted against undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery in August, choosing instead to rest and rehab his partially torn ulnar collateral ligament, but now seven months later the Cardinals shortstop is going under the knife.

Today the Cardinals announced that Furcal will have Tommy John surgery and is expected to be out for 6-8 months, which almost surely means his season is over before it even started. Positive offseason reports about Furcal’s recovery progress convinced the Cardinals not to invest heavily in another shortstop plan, so now they’re left with Pete Kozma or Ronny Cedeno as in-house options to replace him.

Cedeno is a veteran with a solid glove, but he’s hit just .247 with a .290 on-base percentage and .357 slugging percentage in 779 career games through age 29. Kozma played shockingly well stepping into the lineup for Furcal down the stretch last season, but his numbers in the minors have consistently been terrible–including a .223 average and .610 OPS at Triple-A–and there’s little to suggest he’s suited to play regularly in the majors.

And as a 35-year-old shortstop set for major elbow surgery Furcal’s career is now in jeopardy.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

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Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.