Longtime coach Jose Oquendo will not return to the St. Louis Cardinals this season.
Oquendo said Saturday morning that he will have right knee-replacement surgery within the next month in Florida. The recovery period is about six months.
Oquendo visited a doctor Friday in St. Louis and was given the news. He dropped by the Cardinals clubhouse Saturday to say good-bye to players and coaches and spent several minutes talking to catcher Yadier Molina, one of his closest friends.
“In a way, it is (disappointing),” Oquendo, 52, said of the upcoming surgery and long rehabilitation period. “(But) it gave me a little time to see the guys.”
Oquendo, who was entering his 17th season as the Cardinals’ third-base coach, was placed on medical leave March 28. He had two offseason surgeries on the troublesome knee.
I want to get through this. It’s too early to tell. We’ll see what the plan is in the future probably later. Yes, I probably want to stay in baseball somehow. Whatever capacity that is, we’ll see.
Cardinals third-base coach Jose Oquendo on whether he will return to the team in 2017
Oquendo said Saturday he had hoped to possibly return this season.
“I was hoping. Now I don’t have to go through that,” Oquendo said. “It is what it is.”
Oquendo said he will sell his house in St. Louis and prepare to be in Florida full-time. He asserted that he is “only a phone call away” should the Cardinals need him for anything.
As Oquendo recovers from the surgery on his right knee, the condition of his left knee also is a concern. Asked how it felt, Oquendo said: “Not good.” Oquendo played 10 years on the unforgiving artificial surface of Busch Stadium II, retiring after the 1995 season.
Oquendo said it’s premature to speculate whether he will return in 2017.
“I want to get through this,” Oquendo said. “It’s too early to tell. We’ll see what the plan is in the future probably later. Yes, I probably want to stay in baseball somehow. Whatever capacity that is, we’ll see.”
Oquendo, 52, played 10 years with the Cardinals, retiring after the 1995 season. He was entering his 17th season as the team’s third-base coach.
Oquendo said he has been “just about watching every game” on TV.
“I’ve been in touch with the guys here and there. Yadi is one and some of the other guys,” Oquendo said. “And the video guys. That’s how I get to some of the (other) guys.”
Oquendo has been impressed with rookie shortstop Aledmys Diaz, who has experienced defensive issues but is batting .423 with eight doubles, four home runs and 13 RBIs in 22 games. Diaz has struck out just four times in 75 plate appearances.
Diaz had 30 hits in April, becoming just the second Cardinal to accomplish that feat. Albert Pujols had 30 hits in his rookie season of 2001.
“He’s doing good,” Oquendo said. “He just needs time to settle down a little bit. I think he’s doing that in the last four games or so. The more he gets in there, the more confidence he gets. I know he’s (made) a couple of adjustments from what I saw last time.
“He’s letting the ball go (on this throws). He’s throwing the ball better, throwing the ball harder, to first instead of pointing. He’s charging the ball better. All the way around, he’s going to be a plus player.”
Despite his physical limitations, Oquendo in recent weeks has been working with minor-league infielders at the Cardinals’ complex in Florida.
“They have some good kids there,” Oquendo said. “They have a good future, but they’re still in the beginning process. There’s a few middle infielders and a couple of catchers doing OK.
“Teaching is in my blood. I love teaching. I don’t care what level that is, here or there. It’s fun to teach guys and see their improvement and see their progress.”
In Oquendo’s absence, Chris “Hammer” Maloney has been coaching third base, with Bill Mueller taking over Maloney’s old spot as the first-base coach. Mueller, who had been the assistant hitting coach, has been replaced in that role by Derrick May.
Mueller and David Bell have been working with the Cardinals’ infielders.
“We’re seeing some improvements with our guys right now defensively,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “David and Billy are doing a terrific job of figuring out how to get them more comfortable and give them things to work on. They’re continuing to challenge and encourage them and build up their confidence.”