Cards hopeful Furcal can avoid surgery on elbow

Cards hopeful Furcal can avoid surgery on elbow

Cards hopeful Furcal can avoid surgery on elbow
WASHINGTON -- Cardinals medical director George Paletta examined Rafael Furcal on Friday night and diagnosed the shortstop with a Grade 2 strain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. That means that Tommy John surgery, at least for the time being, is off the table.

The Cardinals are hopeful that aggressive therapy, rehab and rest will be enough to address the injury. Manager Mike Matheny passed along an expected recovery time of four to six weeks for Furcal, though even Matheny noted that the actual downtime will likely be on the high end of that range.

There's the potential that it could take longer, and surgery can't be entirely ruled out until the medical staff sees how Furcal responds with the non-invasive treatment.

Furcal suffered the elbow injury in Thursday's loss. After the game, he described feeling a pop in his elbow while making a throw. The Cardinals sent Furcal back to St. Louis on Friday so that the shortstop could be examined by Paletta.

The severity of the injury means that Furcal will not be able to contribute for the rest of the regular season. The range of recovery time does leave open the long-shot possibility that Furcal could be available late in postseason play, if the Cardinals advance deep again.

However, the Cardinals are moving forward with the expectation that Furcal won't be back in uniform until 2013.

"That would be a nice surprise," Matheny said of seeing Furcal in October. "But right now we're just setting ourselves up each day to figure out who gives us the best chance at shortstop."