The St. Louis Cardinals are preparing to begin their 2016 campaign without three-time All-Star shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who — according to an initial exam — tore his left thumb ligament.
Peralta suffered the injury while fielding a foul ball in Saturday’s game against the Marlins. Peralta notified the team’s medical staff of some discomfort, though he felt as if the severity of the ailment was rather low.
Peralta underwent an MRI on Sunday, and it produced results that contrasted his personal judgement. The test revealed that the severity of the injury is high, thus commanding a trip back to St. Louis for further diagnosis.
Peralta will seek a second opinion in St. Louis; the Cardinals are expecting to be informed of the official diagnosis the middle of this week. They’re also awaiting the timetable for his return, and that currently projects to be two-to-three months.
During Peralta’s absence, look for the Cardinals to turn to Greg Garcia, Aledmys Diaz, and Jedd Gyorko. The spring exhibition season began only a week ago, meaning there is enough time for the three to compete and one to emerge as the fittest for the job.
Garcia appeared in 94 games last year with Triple-A Memphis while batting .294 and tallying 21 extra-base hits. He found the majority of his fieldwork at short, compiling over 594 innings there. This season, Garcia appeared in twelve games at the major-league level as a shortstop and committed one error. He and Cardinals second baseman, Kolten Wong, go way back. In fact, the two left-handed hitters attended the University of Hawaii together.
The Cardinals signed Diaz to a four-year deal out of Cuba in March of 2014. While he was being scouted two years ago, he earned some Derek Jeter comparisons. In 586 at-bats over the previous two seasons, Diaz has slashed .276/.335/.444. All of his 1,061 innings of fieldwork in that same span have come at short, where he has slated a .964 fielding percentage over the last two years.
At the Winter Meetings in December, the Cardinals acquired utility infielder Jedd Gyorko from the San Diego Padres. St. Louis felt that Gyorko filled their need for a utility player, someone who could give Wong and Peralta more rest. Those feelings will be tested as the spring rolls along and the Cardinals have to make a decision as to who will serve as their shortstop when camp wraps up and the team heads north.
Replacing Peralta will not be an easy task for the Cardinals, especially so since their offensive production is not at the most ideal of points even with the supportive bat of Peralta. Since signing a four-year, $52 million contract with the Cardinals in November of 2013, Peralta has hit 38 home runs and batted .269.