ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals, having received only encouraging reports about the status of Rafael Furcal, expect the shortstop to be uninhibited by his elbow when Spring Training opens next month.
Furcal, shut down when he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow last August, has been in contact with the Cardinals throughout his rehabilitation work all offseason. The club's confidence in Furcal's ability to return without issue is perhaps best reflected through the team's decision not to acquire another starting shortstop this winter.
General manager John Mozeliak said Saturday that the organization still has its pulse on the middle-infield market, in case there is a need to act closer to Opening Day. If Furcal is healthy, however, the Cardinals will likely utilize Pete Kozma as depth behind him. Daniel Descalso could also slide to short should something happen that causes Furcal to be out for a substantial period of time.
"We have to have contingency plans," Mozeliak said. "Between now and Opening Day, if we feel like we still need to address the middle infield, we'll still consider it. We haven't turned off any of our exploration on that either. We're still open to that. We're still looking at things. As we move closer to Jupiter, [Fla.,] we'll continue to try and find ways to improve this team."
As one of the few Cardinals players not scheduled to attend this year's Winter Warm-Up, Furcal was not available to provide his own update on the status of his elbow.
Manager Mike Matheny has already indicated that he intends to be more proactive in resting Furcal during the regular season, hopeful that extra time off will protect Furcal's durability. It's likely that Furcal will have a modified Spring Training schedule, too, so as to ensure that he doesn't push his elbow too hard, too quickly.
Cards confident in Descalso at second base
ST. LOUIS -- General manager John Mozeliak reiterated Saturday that Daniel Descalso remains the favorite to win the team's starting job at second base, declaring it as Descalso's "job to lose" during Spring Training.
Descalso ended the year as the team's everyday second baseman, though it was not a given that he'd be back as the starter at the position in 2013. But the Cardinals' decision not to add a middle infielder this winter and to trade Skip Schumaker leaves Descalso as the club's most experienced option at second.
"I'm very comfortable with what Descalso's done there," Mozeliak said. "If you see an uptick in his offense, then he's an ideal contributor because I think defensively he's done a real good job."
The wild card in the competition, though, will be Matt Carpenter, who has spent the offseason aggressively drilling himself at second base, a position he played sparingly for the first time in 2012. Admitting that the club doesn't "really know what Carpenter is going to look like," Mozeliak noted that the club is remaining open-minded about the possibility Carpenter could make a push for playing time at second base.
Second baseman Kolten Wong, the team's first-round pick from the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, will take part in Major League camp again, though it's unlikely that he'll make the jump from Double-A to the Cardinals' Opening Day roster. As for Pete Kozma and Ryan Jackson, the Cardinals continue to view both as potential utility players who could back up at either middle-infield position.
Hockey workouts energize veteran Carpenter
ST. LOUIS -- A former standout high school hockey player, Chris Carpenter took to the ice regularly this winter for skating scrimmages with members of the St. Louis Blues, who, after a lengthy lockout, began their season Saturday night.
Carpenter, an all-state hockey selection in New Hampshire during his last three seasons in high school, has been a guest of the Blues before. The National Hockey League's work stoppage this offseason, though, allowed for more regular opportunities for Carpenter to lace up.
"It was a lot of fun," said Carpenter, who lives in St. Louis year-round. "I thank those guys for allowing me to do that. It was a dream come true. ... To get to know those guys and just be involved in skating two or three times a week, the exercise you get is phenomenal. You don't realize it but after an hour and a half of practice with those guys how good of shape you get in. To have fun and continue to exercise and to be able to spend time with those guys was fun, no question."
Carpenter began his Saturday with an extended appearance at the Cardinals' Winter Warm-Up. He was one of several members of the Cardinals' organization who planned to attend the Blues' season opener down the road later that night.
"I'm glad," he said, "to see them back."
More than a month after he verbally accepted an offer to join the Cardinals' coaching staff, Bengie Molina finally officially has the title of assistant hitting coach. Molina signed his contract Friday. Due to a rule change that is expected to soon be ratified by the Major League Baseball Players Association, Molina, the older brother of Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, will be permitted to be in uniform and in the dugout during games. Previously, clubs were only allowed to have six coaches in uniform.
The Cardinals' decision to move on from Kyle Lohse after the season has not changed, even though Lohse remains unsigned and seemingly with a shrinking market of teams interested in him. Mozeliak said Saturday that the Cardinals remain comfortable with the starting pitching depth that they retained.
"Right now, I would say from the Cardinals' standpoint, we feel like we're moving on," Mozeliak said.
Chris Carpenter, who is in the final year of his current contract, said that he will re-evaluate his desire to play beyond 2013 after the season with his family. He said that health will be the primary factor in his decision on what to do after the year ends.
Yadier Molina, chosen as the St. Louis Baseball Man of the Year, will not be in attendance to accept his award at the St. Louis Baseball Writers' Dinner on Sunday. Molina was also slated to receive his Gold and Platinum Gloves from Rawlings at the dinner. He is still scheduled to appear at the Winter Warm-Up on Monday afternoon.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.