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Furcal injury exposes organizational weakness at shortstop

The Cardinals have announced that shortstop Rafael Furcal has a torn ligament in his elbow and that he's out for the season.

That's not going to only be tough to overcome the season -- in which the Redbirds hold on to the second wildcard spot by the skin of their beaks -- but possibly next year, too. The recovery period for a position player for Tommy John surgery for a position player is shorter than that for a pitcher. But, still, it's probably going to take 7-8 months for him to be game ready.

He could easily miss the first couple month of the 2013 season. And if he has any setbacks, all of the sudden the year is getting away from him quickly.

That's a problem because the Cardinals don't have an heir apparent at shortstop. And it's a problem for their bench to count on using utilityman Daniel Descalso as a starter because not only are the substitutions limited. But also because Furcal is an accomplished lead-off man and Descalso is a .225 hitter.

The Birds took a big gamble giving Furcal a two-year, $13-million contract with his recent injury history. And it looks like that gamble isn't going to pay off. He had half a good year in 2012 before he wore down. I'm suspicious he's been trying to play through injury for some time because of his lackluster bat of late. 

The Cardinals will pay Furcal $7 million next season whether he's able to play at a high level or sitting on the disabled list. And with more than $90 million committed already to the 2013 payroll, I don't see the team going outside of the organization to sign a new starting shortstop.

It's really the organizational Achilles heel. The organization has tons of minor league pitching and power in the bushes at the corner and it the outfield. Kolten Wong looks like he has a strong future at second base. But Pete Kozma was a bust at short as a first round draft choice and the organization doesn't seem to be be sold on Ryan Jackson.