Tag Archive | "Seattle Mariners"

The Royals get knocked out of the Wild Card chase

It was fun while it lasted, but the Kansas City Royals playoff hopes came to an end with Wednesday night’s 6-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners. Once again, the Royals offense went into a slump, not scoring a run since the 12th inning of Monday night’s 6-5 win.

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The last few weeks, the Royals were one of five contenders vying for a Wild Card spot. They caught and passed the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles, but they couldn’t gain ground on the Tampa Rays, Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers.

But the Royals didn’t give up. After they lost last Saturday’s game against the Rangers, they bounced back the next day with Justin Maxwell’s ninth inning grand slam off of former Royal All-Star Joakim Soria, giving the Royals a 4-0 victory. Then a four hour, 12 inning win the next day against the Mariners kept the Royals slim playoff hopes alive. But Tuesday’s 4-0 loss to the Mariners and an Indians walk-off home run win by Jason Giambi a few hours earlier hurt their playoff chances. Then Wednesday night’s loss and wins by Cleveland, Tampa and Texas put an end to the Royals playoff hopes.

It’s disappointing the Royals didn’t make the playoffs. But for the first time in almost a generation, the Royals looked like a credible Major League Baseball team. Finishing with a record above .500 for the first time since 2003 and being in the Wild Card hunt, the Royals gave hope to a long-suffering fan base that the team has turned a corner.

But there’s room for improvement. The offense is still weak and despite having five of six winning months, May’s dismal 8-20 record put the Royals in a hole they couldn’t get out of. With last month’s seven game losing streak and their recent critical losses to the Detroit Tigers and the Indians, the Royals doomed their chances of making the playoffs. Look at it this way: if the Royals went .500 in May with a 14-14 record, they would have an 89-69 record and be tied with the Rays in the Wild Card standings.

With an 83-75 record, the Royals have four games left against the Chicago White Sox. They need to win the series and finish with their best record since 1993, when they went 84-78. Their offseason focus will be improving the offense and rebuilding their starting rotation around James Shields and Jeremy Guthrie. They also need to maintain their good defense and bullpen.

Will this happen? With the Royals, it’s hard to say. In the past they’ve shown promise and then crashed and burned. If any team can mess it up, it’s the Royals. But they’re a better team than they were a couple of years ago. They were on their way to another losing season, but after the All-Star break they turned it around and for a while they made themselves into Wild Card contenders. They bounced back from many games and situations that would have doomed them in years past. The Royals have a ways to go, but their experience playing through the highs and the lows of 2013 should help them contend in 2014.

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Justin Maxwell’s blast helps keep Royals’ playoff hopes alive

When Justin Maxwell walked up to the plate in the 10th inning of Sunday’s game against the Rangers, anyone watching could sense that it was a big moment. Whether you were one of the thousands and Kauffman who rose to your feet or whether you were glued to the television, you could sense the enormity of the situation.

Royals Twins Baseball

The score was tied 0-0 in the tenth inning with the bases loaded and two outs. Former Royal Joakim Soria was on the mound for the Rangers. The Royals were battling for their playoff lives against a team that sat ahead of them in the Wild Card standings.

Maxwell worked deep in the count before squaring up a fastball, sending a no-doubter over the fence in left field. After making contact, Maxwell threw both hands in the air, sensing how big the hit he just delivered really was.

For Royals fans who haven’t had much to cheer about over recent years, this was a signature moment in a season that has surprised even the most die-hard fans.

The 4-0 victory gave the Royals a series win against the struggling Rangers. Texas, who once seemed a lock for the postseason now sits 1.5 games behind the Indians, who now hold on to the second Wild Card spot.

It should be an exciting last week, as five teams are still in contention. The Royals are now 3.5 games back, the Yankees 4 games back and the Orioles 4.5 games back.

The Royals have three games in Seattle against the Mariners and close with four games in Chicago against the White Sox. The Royals have their work cut out for them, because they have to pass two teams and hold off the two teams that are nipping at their heels.

Kansas City turns to prized prospect Yordano Ventura, who will start on Monday against the Mariners in one of the biggest games of the year. It is only the second career start for the flame-throwing right-hander.

The Royals need to win nearly every game to make up their 3.5 game deficit and emerge from the five-team clutter.

Every game is important, and as Maxwell showed on Sunday, any moment can become an iconic moment as the Royals attempt to make the postseason for the first time since 1985.

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The Royals hang on in playoff hunt

When a team like the Royals are in a Wild Card chase, every game is like a playoff game. And when they play six games against two teams ahead of them in the division, it’s important to win those games. In last Friday’s game against the A. L. Central leading Detroit Tigers, the Royals didn’t play well and lost 6-3. They rebounded in Saturday’s game and won 1-0, evening the series. In Sunday’s series finale, the Royals were tied 2-2 through seven and a half innings. Manager Ned Yost made the decision to have Jeremy Guthrie pitch the bottom half of the eighth, who at the time kept the Royals in the game.  But it was a costly decision, with Guthrie giving up a home run to Alex Avila, handing the Royals a 3-2 loss. In a crucial series, the  Royals lost two out of three games to the Tigers. It was a series the Royals really needed to win, but they didn’t.

JeremyGuthrie

Next up, the Cleveland Indians. With their two losses to Detroit, the Royals needed to sweep the Indians to move up in the Wild Card standings. And after their 7-1 victory Monday night, a sweep looked possible. Royals top pitching prospect Yordano Ventura was on the hill for Tuesday’s game and for six innings, Ventura kept the Indians to one run, striking out three and walking two before handing a 3-1 lead the the Royals reliable bullpen.

But the bullpen wasn’t reliable that night. A shaky outing from Kelvin Herrera tied the game at 3-3 and Wade Davis and Luke Hochevar each gave up a run, giving the Royals a 5-3 loss. In a 162 game season, one loss isn’t a big deal. But in a tight Wild Card race, a loss could mean missing the playoffs. Had the Royals won, they would be two games back of the second wild card spot with 11 games to go. Instead, they ended up 3.5 games back. It was a game the Royals needed to win, but they didn’t.

But if there’s a theme for the 2013 Royals, it’s resiliency. With their playoff chances on the line, the Royals came back Wednesday night with a 7-2 victory. While the win keeps their playoff hopes alive, the Royals still have three teams ahead of them in the Wild Card chase, and they’re 2.5 games back of a Wild Card spot. With ten games remaining and an 80-72 record, time and games are running out. But the next three games at Kauffman Stadium are against the struggling Texas Rangers, one of the Wild Card hopefuls. From there, the Royals finish the season on the road against the Seattle Mariners and Chicago White Sox.

With ten games to go and 8.5 games back of the Tigers, the only chance for the Royals to make the playoffs is a Wild Card berth. To do that, they need to win seven or eight games and have key losses from other teams in the Wild Card hunt to make the playoffs. It’s a long shot, but it’s up to the Royals to win their games and make it happen.

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St. Louis Cardinals will have little excuse not to win NL Central

The St. Louis Cardinals have played as tough of a schedule as any team in Major League Baseball this season. They spent the majority of the first half on the road and then came back from the All-Star Break to face 10 playoff-bound teams in their next 15 series.

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After six games to open the second half against the lowly San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Philles, the Cardinals faced the Atlanta Braves twice, the Los Angeles Dodgers once, the Pittsburgh Pirates four times and the Cincinnati Reds three times, for a total of 33 out of 48 games.

The Cardinals have survived that difficult stretch, going 25-24 headed into Sunday’s game against the Pirates, and they will soon reap the benefits of completing facing all of those potential playoff teams as the schedule balances out through the rest of September.

St. Louis will have 19 games left in the 2013 season after they finish their final three-game set with the Pirates on Sunday, and they will face just one team with a winning record, the Washington Nationals, who visit Busch Stadium Sept. 23-25.

Otherwise, the Cardinals face the likes of the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, Seattle Mariners and Colorado Rockies through the end of the regular season. Those teams were a combined 63 games under the .500 mark headed into play Saturday.

So the Cardinals will have every opportunity to win the National League Central Division, especially since the Pirates face the AL West-leading Texas Rangers to begin this next week and still have six games against the Reds, which are the third contender in the NL Central.

Of course, a light schedule to finish the season is far from a guarantee of success. Sometimes the worst teams play well against playoff contenders late in the season as they bring up young players from the minor leagues and try to play the spoiler role.

The Cubs could be particularly troublesome, which is a problem considering they come to St. Louis for a three-game series to finish the season.

The Cardinals are 9-7 against the Cubs this season, but luckily those final three games will be played in St. Louis, where the Cardinals were 42-25 headed into play Saturday, compared to a 39-35 record on the road.

Along with the bevy of opponents with poor records, the schedule also helps the Cardinals in that 12 of the final 19 games are at Busch Stadium, and that could also give the Cardinals momentum headed into October.

The Cardinals are in a three-way battle for the division title with the Pirates and Reds, and they have held the first wild-card spot for much of the second half, but it is crucial they at least hang on to that position if they don’t win the division because they have played so much better at home.

One of the staples of the clubs managed by former manager Tony La Russa was their ability to play well on the road. The 2013 Cardinals still have a winning road record, but they have not played well away from St. Louis at all in the second half, going 9-15 since the All-Star Break, so home-field advantage could be particularly important for this ballclub.

They’ll have every opportunity to win that advantage given their remaining schedule, and they’ll have no one to blame but themselves if they have to open the postseason with a one-game wild-card playoff in Pittsburgh or Cincinnati.

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Biogenesis: Is ACES To Blame?

By now baseball fans are very familiar with the word “Biogenesis” and the subsequent suspensions being handed down to players as a result of their involvement with the company.  A shocking similarity is starting to form when looking at the players being suspended and the agency that has represented them.

NelsonCruz

As of this morning, MLBTradeRumors is sharing reports from various sources claiming twelve players have accepted suspensions handed down by Major League Baseball for their involvement with Biogenesis.

The list currently: Nelson Cruz – Texas Rangers, Jhonny Peralta – Detroit Tigers, Everth Cabrera – San Diego Padres, Antonio Bastardo – Philadelphia Phillies, Jordany Valdespin – New York Mets, Sergio Escalona – Houston Astros, Francisco Cervelli – New York Yankees, Jesus Montero – Seattle Mariners, Cesar Puello – New York Mets (Minor Leaguer), Fautino De Los Santos – San Diego Padres (Minor Leaguer), Fernando Martinez – Houston Astros, Jordan Norberto – Oakland Athletics

Nelson Cruz announced this morning that he had changed agencies from ACES to Wasserman Media Group, a move that is not uncommon and normally does not raise any flags.

However, that agency – ACES – has been popping up a lot lately.

They were the agency that represented, and were accused of assisting in a cover-up for, Melky Cabrera.  They are also connected to Gio Gonzalez, who has been linked to Biogenesis but not named in the suspension list as of yet.  Add to those two names Jhonny Peralta, Jesus Montero, Fautino De Los Santos, Jordany Valdespin, Antonio Bastardo, Sergio Escalona and Cesar Puello and you’ve got a staggering number of clients being accused of using performance enhancing drugs.

What does all of this mean?  It may not mean anything at all.  ACES is a large agency with a fairly large amount of clients (107 baseball players are listed in MLBTR’s Agency Database as represented by ACES).  Maybe it suggests that the clients were brought together by a common event.  Maybe it suggests that someone at ACES has planted the seed that Biogenesis could help their clients.

Either way, I would guess that Major League Baseball may further investigate the agency before all the smoke clears.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
You can talk baseball with him on Twitter or read more of his St. Louis Cardinals analysis on Yahoo!.

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Free Baseball Bonanza

Congratulations to the UCLA Bruins. They became the 2013 NCAA Men’s College Baseball Champions. The Bruins did so in dominating fashion and won their first ever championship in baseball. (Bold Prediction Correct!)

CWS Finals Baseball

The Bruins were under the radar a bit for much of the season and at the beginning of the tournament. They were a number one seed in the Regional round and went 3-0 to advance. In the Super Regionals they beat a good Cal State Fullerton team 2-0. Then in Omaha, went an impressive 5-0 to capture the crown. They picked a pretty good time to get hot and go 10-0 over the last couple of weeks. In Omaha, they defeated the #1 and #4 ranked teams in the nation in North Carolina and LSU respectively then beat Mississippi State twice. The eye popping stat, in those five games, they allowed a total of four runs. Allowing four runs in 45 innings is an attention grabber at any level.

The title was the 109th overall title for the university and the first on the diamond.

Aside from College World Series action, for baseball fans who like long games that extend into the early hours of the morning, this season as been a good year thus far. The season has not even reached the All Star break yet, but lately fans have been getting much, much more then they are bargaining for.

So far in 2013, 10.6 percent of MLB games have gone into extra innings. Currently, that is the highest rate of extra inning games since 1965 when 11.0 percent of games went past nine innings.

It is not just at the Major League level either as the NCAA tournament saw its fare share of free baseball as well. The most recent marathon was a game between Rice and North Carolina State. With many rain delays mixed in, the outcome was decided in the 17th inning with NC State winning 5-4 and advancing to the College World Series.

At the pro level, 17 innings was nothing as the Mets and Marlins played a whopping 20 inning affair. The Chicago White Sox and Seattle Mariners played 13 scoreless innings before both teams’ tallied 5 runs in the 14th and the Sox finally winning in 16.

Additionally, there have been eight games of 15 or more innings. Only one season in the past six have had more such games for the entire season and that was in 2012. At the current pace, that number would reach 17 games of 15 plus innings. That number has not been reached since 1976 when there were 19 marathons of that length.

As the calendar is about to change, schools are officially out and summer is in full effect. It is a great time of year to catch a ball game, and likely a ball game that will last hours on end.

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Triple Play: Chris Sale, Lance Berkman, Brandon McCarthy

Welcome to this week’s Triple Play. This week, we examine an ace lefty, a couple of Giant pitchers who are anything but, a pitcher rebounding nicely from a horrific injury, and more. Here we go:

San Francisco Giants' Tim Lincecum works against the San Diego Padres in the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, April 20, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Who’s Hot?

Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox

Sale has been breezing through opposing lineups. Since getting rocked for eight earned runs against Cleveland on April 13, Sale has allowed a total on seven earned runs in his next six starts. In fact, he hasn’t allowed a run in 23 innings. The Angels are certainly tired of facing him. In Sale’s past two starts (both against the punchless Halos), Sale shut them down for 16 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and four walks, while punching out 19. For the season, the lanky lefty is 5-2 with a 2.53 ERA and a glowing 0.92 WHIP. That puts him on pace to win 20 games with 240-plus strikeouts, and a 4-to-a strikeout-to-walk ratio – all numbers are pure gold for fantasy owners. His Fielder Independent Pitching (FIP) ratio is 3.19, which indicates that a small regression may be on the way, but it would be unreasonable to expect Sale to continue his current pace. Make no mistake, though. Sale is a stud, and you should be ready to pay accordingly if you’re looking to deal for him in your fantasy league.

Who’s Not?

Ryan Vogelsong, San Francisco Giants

It’s safe to say that whatever magic spell that turned Vogelsong into such an effective pitcher in 2011-12 has expired and he has turned back into a pumpkin. Simply put, Vogelsong has been terrible. How terrible, you ask? In eight starts, he has allowed an NL-worst 37 earned runs – that’s more than half the earned runs he allowed the entire 2012 season in 190 innings. He currently sports an ERA over 8 and a 2.67 WHIP. Stats like that will kill an entire fantasy pitching staff. But manager Bruce Bochy is going to stick with Vogelsong for the time being. You should not. The rest of the NL West is a muddled mess, so the first-place Giants don’t seem to believe finding a replacement is a priority. You should, however, if you’re stuck with Vogelsong on your fantasy team. You’d be better off with a middle reliever who isn’t single-handedly destroying your ERA and WHIP categories. A middle reliever might also vulture the occasional win or save.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: .121 avg, .319 OPS
Player B: .123 avg, .319 OPS

Player A is actually the collective batting average and OPS for the Seattle Mariners’ shortstops so far this season. Player B represents the same stats for National League pitchers. NBC Sports HardballTalk reported this hilariously eye-popping stat a few days ago. Upon closer review, Seattle’s Brendan Ryan and Robert Andino have combined for 1 homer (plus 11 RBI, two steals, and 12 runs scored). Meanwhile, the following NL pitchers have homered: Clayton Kershaw, Wade Miley, Tim Hudson, Gio Gonzalez, Jeff Samardzjia, and Eric Stults. All of this leads me to ask: how much longer are the Mariners going to wait to call up Nick Franklin? He’s hitting .328/.451/.509 with 4 homers, 17 RBI, 5 steals and 26 runs scored at Triple-A Tacoma. Talk about an instant upgrade. This should be a no-brainer. Come on, Jack Zduriencik. Fantasy owners are waiting, rather impatiently.

Player A: .210/.258/.347, 5 HR, 12 RBI, 17 runs, 1 SB
Player B: .293/.416/.455, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 18 runs, 0 SB

Player A is Josh Hamilton. Player B is Lance Berkman, the man the Texas Rangers signed to replace Hamilton after his defection to Los Angeles. Thanks to the DH, the Big Puma has been able to avoid playing the field – thus keeping his legs healthier than during his injury-plagued 2012 – and focus on hitting. At 37, Berkman remains a terrific hitter. His OPS+ of 130 ranks second on the team (to Mitch Moreland), and he is on pace to hit close to .300 and drive in 80 runs. Hamilton, meanwhile, is on pace for 46 RBI and an average below the Mendoza Line. Advantage: Texas. Fantasy-wise, Berkman was most likely had in your league at a bargain-basement price or a late round due to his injuries last season. He is on pace for around 15 homers and 75 runs scored in addition to those 80 RBI. Hamilton is on pace to hit just 19 home runs this season, plus 65 runs scored and a handful of stolen bases. After clubbing a career-high 43 long balls in 2012, fantasy owners no doubt paid big bucks to land Hamilton on their team. Barring a huge turnaround, he’s going to leave owners and Angel fans wishing they had picked up the Berkman instead.

Random Thoughts

  • After Baltimore closer Jim Johnson saw his team record of 35 consecutive saves snapped last week, he really imploded in spectacular fashion Saturday against the Rays: six batters faced, three hits, two walks, FIVE earned runs, one out. Yeesh.
  • Raise your hand if you predicted that the Rockies would be supplying the Yankees with a consistent supply of infielders this season (first Chris Nelson, then Reid Brignac over the weekend). Notice I left the word “quality” out of the previous sentence.
  • And yet, the Yankees keep winning. How long before the New York media starts touting Vernon Wells as an MVP candidate?
  • Tony Cingrani made six starts, pitching 33 innings with a 41-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 1.02 WHIP. Mike Leake has made eight starts with a 34-to-13 K-to-BB ratio and a 1.49 WHIP. Naturally, it’s Cingrani being sent to the minors to make room for Johnny Cueto instead of Leake. Brilliant move, Cincinnati.
  • Wainwright Walk Watch: The Cardinals’ ace pitched 37 innings this season before issuing his first walk. So far this season, he has walked six batters while striking out 71. Among NL starters who have tossed at least 50 innings, only Washington’s Jordan Zimmermann (9) has walked fewer than 10 batters.
  • Conversely, Boston’s Ryan Dempster walked six Minnesota batters in less than five innings Saturday. Guess that little glove shake before he throws the ball doesn’t fool the umpires any more than it does the hitters.
  • Did you see Tim Lincecum lose his balance and fall off the mound while winding up Saturday night against the Rockies? It resulted in the runner on first being balked to second, then the runner came around to score on a single by Tyler Chatwood (the opposing pitcher). A train wreck of an inning – and a perfect summation of Lincecum’s career the past few years.
  • It’s not yet Memorial Day, but it might be time to stick a fork (phork?) in the Phillies. Getting a runner to third ONCE against a salad tosser like Bronson Arroyo? That’s ugly. I would suggest that Philly unload their veterans and rebuild, but outside of Cliff Lee, who would want them?
  • It appears that Braves lefty specialist Eric O’Flaherty is going to join teammate Jonny Venters in elbow-surgery land soon. Last one in the Atlanta bullpen, please turn out the lights.
  • What a great sight Saturday night, watching Brandon McCarthy spin a complete-game, three-hit shutout of the Marlins. Although it’s his first win of the season, McCarthy has been pitching pretty well this season. His 37-to-8 K-to-BB ratio is stellar, and his FIP rating of 3.74 indicates that he has been better than the results show. Focus on that if you’re thinking of picking him up in your fantasy league. In any case, Saturday night had to be extra satisfying for McCarthy, even if it was against the worst team in baseball. After that horrifying skull fracture last September, I’ll bet he doesn’t care who his opponent is, as long as he is out there able to play in good health. Here’s to continued success for him. Baseball is better with guys like McCarthy on the field.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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Batter Up: Fans Guide To Spring Training

Batter Up: The Fan's Guide To Spring Training Source: Sports Management Degree Hub

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Adam Moore Trying To Make His Case

The Kansas City Royals have very few “up for grabs” spots in Spring Training.  Some players are going to have to really impress to crack the opening day roster this year.

Catcher Adam Moore is making an early attempt at impressing.

Photo by Charles Sollars/i70baseball

Photo by Charles Sollars/i70baseball

Make no mistake, despite his soon to come departure to the World Baseball Classic, Salvador Perez is the Royals catcher and rightfully so.  However, the team has kept an open mind to who will travel with the team as his backup this season.  July of last year shows a waiver transaction that had the Royals claiming Moore from the Seattle  Mariners.  He would appear in four games last year and compiling only twelve plate appearances.

This Spring, Moore has appeared in three of the four games that the Royals have played.  He has shown consistent defense, which is his “calling card”.  A good glove, a strong arm, and a suspect bat.

Two out of three ain’t bad.

Moore forgot that he was supposed to have a suspect bat.  Small sample size and over-analyzing Spring stats will lead you down a dark path, but what you can see is a player that is playing with passion.  In Monday’s 16-4 drumming of the Diamondbacks, Moore hit is second home run of the young spring.  In addition, he held his batting average at .500 (again, small sample size, he has six at bats).  He came into today’s action as a designated hitter, replacing Billy Butler in the process.

None of this means a whole lot at this point, but it does give Royals fans something to pay attention to.  There is currently no guarantee who will be the backup catcher in a little over a month when the team breaks camp but one thing is for sure: starting catcher Salvador Perez leaves the team this week to represent his country in the World Baseball Classic.  That will leave a lot of at bats, as well as a lot of time to get to know the pitching staff, to another player.  That player will gain the opportunity to seize a roster spot and prove to manager Ned Yost why he deserves to be on the team.

Adam Moore can put a strong grip on that spot if he simply continues to do what he is doing right now.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Furcal Should Concern Cardinals

In a spring training that has included worries about contract negotiations and the health of starting pitchers, the stability of a right elbow ligament for a position player could be the St. Louis Cardinals’ biggest problem as games get underway.

RafaelFurcal2

Shortstop Rafael Furcal received an anti-inflammatory shot in his injured elbow Friday to help ease discomfort created by a bone spur, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Furcal tore a ligament in the elbow Aug. 30 in a game against the Washington Nationals, and he chose to forego surgery in favor of rehab during the offseason. But that decision could come back to haunt Furcal and the Cardinals for the 2013 season.

Furcal has yet to throw or take lefthanded at-bats during camp, and he didn’t sound optimistic about his condition Thursday.

“It still hurts, a lot, when I’m throwing,” Furcal said.

That is very bad news for a Cardinals team that doesn’t have a solid backup option at shortstop.

Pete Kozma played well at the end of last season, but that was a flash of brilliance in an otherwise mediocre career spent languishing in the minor leagues, and the Cardinals have been reluctant to put much faith in Kozma as a major part of the solution at shortstop.

But other than Kozma, the Cardinals are in a world of hurt in one of the most important positions on the field. They signed Ronny Cedeno during the offseason, but he has a career batting average of .247 and hasn’t been able to stick even with bad teams such as the Chicago Cubs, Seattle Mariners, Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Mets.

The Cardinals looked at making a move for a shortstop during the offseason and reportedly inquired about trading for Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera.

Cabrera would be an excellent fit with the Cardinals and would fill a position of need, but other teams know the Cardinals are loaded with good, young pitching, and their asking prices are very high.

The Cardinals understandably don’t want to park with their treasure trove of pitching. Pitching and defense are what generally win championships, and decent hitters are usually easier to find than pitchers who can provide productive innings.

But because Furcal didn’t undergo surgery when he first injured his elbow, the Cardinals are in quite a bind just a month before the regular season begins.

Obviously, the decision to have surgery is ultimately that of the player, and the team likely has significant input, but right now the decision to try and rehab rather than have surgery is creating some anxious moments in spring training camp as Furcal struggles to heal enough to play.

Furcal also has a history of injuries that threatened to derail his career. He was an all-star-caliber shortstop with the Atlanta Braves during the first six years of his career, but he has not played more than 100 games in three of the last five years because of various injuries.

The Cardinals knew they were getting a fragile player when they traded for Furcal at the 2011 trading deadline, and they got quite a bit of production from him before the injury. Furcal has been a .259 hitter with 176 hits in 171 games played in the year and a half he’s been a Cardinals player, but the elbow injury is looking like it could be a problem longer than just the next couple of weeks.

So if Furcal can’t start the season, the Cardinals will have to make a decision just as important as Furcal’s decision about having surgery. They will have to make a deal to get a shortstop, which likely would cost highly regarded pitching prospects, or they’ll have to hope a Kozma-Cedeno platoon at shortstop is good enough to make the playoffs.

Otherwise, the Cardinals could have another one of those incredibly frustrating situations when they count on a player to eventually get healthy, and he never does.

That has happened repeatedly with Cardinals pitchers throughout the years, and it usually results in a not-so-great season because the team didn’t make necessary changes while hoping the injured player would return.

Hopefully, shortstop isn’t the Cardinals’ downfall this year, but it is already the position that will cause the most anxiety this spring.

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