Future uncertain for Cardinals' Duncan

Future uncertain for Cardinals' Duncan

ST. LOUIS -- Visibly melancholic and dejected, Chris Duncan walked around the clubhouse before Saturday's game knowing his promising career has hit rock bottom.

Scheduled for what will likely be season-ending surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck on Monday, Duncan does not know what the future holds in store for him, but said he will try to remain optimistic that he will make a speedy recovery.

"It's been a tough week as far as dealing with the pain," Duncan said. "I'm kind of excited just to get that taken care of. ... After meeting with the doctor and everything, I feel really confident that I should have a 100 percent recovery."

Duncan will undergo a procedure at Barnes Jewish Hospital that has never been performed on an athlete to replace the herniated disk. The surgery will be performed by Dr. Dan Riew, and Duncan said he has been told the pain should immediately be relieved.

His recovery should be 3-6 weeks.

Throughout his interview with various members of the media, Duncan kept holding his right arm because of numbness and pain that runs through it. He said he has been having trouble sleeping and that simple tasks have now become extremely difficult to perform. At the same time, his range of motion has been severely limited as well.

"It had been bothering me and then it just got real bad to the point where it was intolerable," Duncan said.

All year long, Duncan struggled after undergoing season-ending surgery in 2007 to repair a bilateral sports hernia. After belting 43 home runs for his first 1 1/2 seasons, Duncan could not find his power stroke in 2008.

Thus far in 2008, Duncan is batting .248 with six home runs. Because of his struggles, the organization demoted him to Triple-A Memphis to correct himself. When Albert Pujols hit the disabled list a week later, the club had to recall him.

Placed on the DL on July 22 after he experienced agonizing pain in his neck, Duncan received a cortisone shot. He tried various other methods and took prescribed pills to ease the pain, but no remedy proved corrective.

"I don't think any doubt that in '06 and '07 he's a healthy, winning, productive player," manager Tony La Russa said. "It's reasonable to say that between the hernia and this, it's amazing he's been able to do anything. His toughness is off the chart."

La Russa said he knew Duncan was not running as well but did not foresee this damaging of an injury. Duncan said he was not sure how the injury was caused, but admitted to feeling pain in Spring Training and again when the Cardinals were in Detroit between June 24-26.

Lee Hurwitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.