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Furcal's elbow gets a good report. How about his bat?

Cardinals GM John Mozeliak says that a new MRI reveals that shortstop Rafael Furcal's torn elbow ligament is "completely healed" and that the veteran middle infielder is expected to have a normal season.

So the big question, at this point, is what is normal for Furcal after his distrubing drop off in 2012.

At the beginning of June, Furcal was hitting .328 with a .388 on base percentage. But in June he batted .176 and it didn't get much better after that. He batted .247 in July and .227 in August before being shut down for the rest of the year.

The Cardinals offense, which was criticized last year for being inconsistent even though the raw numbers ranked it as one of the best in baseball, was much better when Furcal was hitting well. After he dropped off, the team had trouble putting runners on base in front of the middle of the batting order.

I'm skeptical about the 35-year-old shortstop's abilities after the way he faded in 2012. I hope that his bat went downhill because his elbow limited his swing and that now the problem has been healed. But it may be wishful thinking.

Take away his fantastic first two months of 2012 and Furcal has been an offensive disappointment dating back to his Dodgers days. He hasn't hit higher than .264 for a full season since 2010. A .286 hitter before 2010, he's a .251 hitter since. Those numbers might be acceptable for a bottom of the order hitter. But Furcal was signed to be the Redbirds' lead-off man as much as he was to be the shortstop.