Matheny optimistic about Monday's back surgery

JUPITER, Fla. -- Manager Mike Matheny is optimistic that he'll miss only two of the team's Spring Training games while he recovers from back surgery, which he is scheduled to undergo on Monday morning.

Matheny will fly to St. Louis after Sunday's game against the Mets for the microdisectomy, which was recommended after physical therapy and an epidural provided only short-term relief for the pain and numbness caused by a ruptured disc.

During the procedure, a fragment of that ruptured disc will be removed to relieve pressure on a nerve.

"There are some more dramatic surgeries that happen than this one," Matheny said, refuting that this is a worst-case scenario. "I guess we just didn't really know what to expect, hoping that it would just settle down and go away. … They seem pretty confident that this will take care of it."

Matheny intends to return to Florida on Wednesday so that he can be in the dugout for Thursday's home game. (The Cardinals do not have a game on Wednesday.) Bench coach Mike Aldrete will serve as manager during Matheny's two-game absence, and first-base coach Chris Maloney will serve as Aldrete's bench coach. Triple-A manager Ron "Pop" Warner will step in for Maloney in the first-base box.

Symptoms of the back ailment began shortly after Matheny arrived in Jupiter but became debilitating around the beginning of this month. Increasing pain and a bout of food poisoning kept him from traveling with the team to its March 1 game, against the Astros. Three days later the epidural was administered.

"I hate being a distraction to all these guys, because they are all hurting with something right now," Matheny said when asked about dealing with the discomfort. "But it would be a long season with the flights and the sitting down [if the problem wasn't addressed]. … Standing up all game, I'm fine. I feel best when I'm walking. I hate that this has been as big a deal as it's been."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.