St. Louis Cardinals left-hander Marco Gonzales will undergo Tommy John surgery Friday and will miss the entire season.
Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak said Gonzales notified him of his decision to undergo the elbow ligament-replacement surgery, meaning it was signicantly torn. Had the elbow ligament been only partially torn, Gonzales could have opted to rehab it.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing,” Mozeliak said Wednesday. “We were hopeful that it wouldn’t require this, but unfortunately, this year’s going to be lost. He’s certainly disappointed, too, but as a pitcher, he understands there’s risk when you throw. He feels like he’ll come back stronger and better than prior to the injury.”
The surgery will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.
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Gonzales, who was ticketed to pitch at Class AAA Memphis, is expected to miss the next 12 to 15 months. Gonzales suffered the injury March 28, after being optioned to Memphis.
Mozeliak listed Deck McGuire, Jeremy Hefner and Alex Reyes as the leading candidates to be promoted to the big leagues in the event of an injury. Reyes, who tested positive for marijuana usage in the offseason, will return from his 50-game suspension May 17.
“From a big-picture standpoint, it certainly elevates the importance of Deck McGuire and Hefner, and when you look at sort of our depth of what we have, obviously, that’s always something that from my end of things you’re always congnizant of,” Mozeliak said.
“It also puts a little more pressure on making sure that someone like an Alex Reyes continues to work hard, and when his suspension’s up, he is someone that could be at least available in the mix, if necessary.”
The Cardinals had hoped Reyes would pitch the entire season at Memphis.
“That was not where we intended on having him pitch – in the big leagues,” Mozeliak said. “But when all of a sudden the two guys you thought were going to be available aren’t, the depth chart changes. In Reyes’ case, he had a little dental procedure (Tuesday). That may slow him down for a couple of days, but ultimately, he’ll be able to get his innings in.”
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said the best-case scenario is keeping healthy the major-league of Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Jaime Garcia, Carlos Martinez and Mike Leake.
“Hopefully we don’t need anybody. That’s my plan,” Matheny said. “Hopefully, we’ll keep rolling five guys out there all season. There was nothing guaranteed that (Gonzales) was going to be the guy ready to go if he had stayed healthy. We, obviously, want to keep all our guys and hate for anyone to have to go through surgery, but it happens and you just try to figure out how do we get him into a good spot physically.
“In the meanwhile, somebody else has to jump in and be the guy if we need it.”
Gonzales, the Cardinals’ first-round draft choice in 2013, was limited to 19 games last season, all but one of them in the minor leagues, because of a pectoral injury.
“He had become a better pitcher (this spring), without a doubt,” Matheny said. “It’s unfortunate, but injuries happen. You just try to make the most out of it. The most to make out of it now is he has to get past this and figure out how to get ready for the next season. He’s got a long road ahead of him as far as bouncing back from this injury and figuring out how to keep moving forward with the steps that he had made in spring training.”
Mozeliak endorsed Gonzales’ decision to have the surgery, considering it the quickest way to get Gonzales back on the mound again.
“I think when you talk to doctors on this, there’s always a little bit of a gray area in terms of what’s next,” Mozeliak said, referring to Gonzales’ option to rehab the elbow instead of have the surgery. “There are times when it’s very clear-cut. But when you look at a conservative approach and you still end up having to have surgery, then you’re starting to jeopardize next year.
“I think in the end, you’ve got to do what you’re most comfortable with. The last thing we want to do from an organizational standpoint or from a personal level, from a GM standpoint, is dictate what someone should do. I recognize it’s their career and they need to be comfortable with the decisions they’re making.”
Mozeliak said the Cardinals no longer interject their opinions to a player when he is considering surgery or rehab.
“I remember years ago, you would help influence, one way or another, on how a player may think about it,” Mozeliak said. “The outcomes are not always positive. To be a part of that, I don’t think is fair. I do think it’s an individual decision and one that (Gonzales) wanted to reflect on and be patient with. I respect that.”
Mozeliak said shortstop Ruben Tejada (left quad strain) will begin a minor-league rehab outing Friday at Class AA Springfield.
“Hopefully, all that goes well and he’ll be ready to go maybe as soon as Sunday or Monday,” Mozeliak said.
With Aledmys Diaz playing so well as Tejada heals, Mozeliak said the return of Tejada saddles the Cardinals with a “complicated” situation.
“I think how you have to think about our lineup is optimizing whoever’s hot and how things are going,” Mozeliak said. “In Diaz’s case, we were preparing him to play multiple positions. There’s an option for that. I think Tejada can do the same. It’s another tool in the toolbox.”
Tejada was signed after the Cardinals lost regular shortstop Jhonny Peralta to a torn ligament in his left thumb. Peralta isn’t expected to return until after the All-Star break in July.
“We signed Ruben to give us depth,” Mozeliak said. “One of the things we wanted to do was allow Diaz to play. At the time, the thinking was give him at-bats at Memphis and let him continue to grow. Well, guess what? That didn’t happen. He had to come here and now he’s getting a chance to play at the major-league level and he’s taking full advantage of that. He’s performing well.”
Another left-hander, Tim Cooney, still isn’t right and is being shut down for the time being.
“The strategy with him is to go with a conservative approach,” Mozeliak said. “We’ll revisit that in a couple of weeks. There’s nothing they’ve been able to identify that’s structurally wrong. So when you’re just not feeling right, sometimes the best thing to do is rest, rehab and try again.
“Could you go in and put a camera in there and look for something that might not be showing up in an MRI? Yeah, it’s possible, but right now, that’s not even something we’re considering.”
Brewers 6, Cardinals 4
Domingo Santana hit a two-run homer to center against Trevor Rosenthal in the ninth inning Wednesday, breaking a 4-4 tie and giving Milwaukee a two-run victory over the Cardinals.
By the numbers
The Cardinals’ four-game winning streak came to a halt before 40,994. ... Brandon Moss clubbed a game-tying pinch-hit homer in the eighth for the Cardinals, their fourth pinch-hit homer of the season. They had four all of last season. ... Mike Leake allowed four runs (all earned) on eight hits in six innings in his Cardinals home debut. ... Jeremy Jeffress pitched the ninth for his fourth save.
Jaime Garcia (0-0, 6.00 ERA) vs. Wily Peralta (0-1, 9.00 ERA), 12:45 p.m. Thursday