Cardinals SS Furcal hoping for opening day start
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — St. Louis shortstop Rafael Furcal and his injured elbow may not be ready for Saturday's first game of spring training.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny insists that shouldn't be much of a concern.
"We still have a few days to figure that out," Matheny said. "He still hasn't let it go yet so it's going to be hard to put him out there in a situation where he has to go to his backhand deep in the hole. We know he's not ready for that."
Furcal is working his way back from a strained elbow ligament suffered near the end of last season. There was a concern that he'd have to undergo Tommy John surgery, but Furcal chose to try rehab instead.
When healthy, Furcal has one of the strongest arms among major league shortstops. Doctors have him on a plan where he's still working up to throwing the ball at maximum velocity. He's participated in Cardinals fielding drills since position players reported on Friday, working on turning double plays on Monday.
From what Matheny has seen so far, he's expecting Furcal to be ready to start the season.
"I'm not going to have too much of a panic," he said. "We watched him really take his time last year. He showed up the first day of the season ready to go. That's what I'm expecting again."
A 13- year veteran, Furcal hit .264 in 121 games for the Cardinals last season, batting primarily in the leadoff spot.
When Furcal went down last season, the Cardinals turned to former first round pick Pete Kozma. After hitting only .232 at Class AAA Memphis, Kozma responded with a .333 average in 26 games down the stretch and performed solidly in the field. His average dipped to .214 in the playoffs.
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