JUPITER, FL. (KMOV.com) -- Jhonny Peralta, the Cardinals' All-Star shortstop has a torn ligament in his left thumb and will return to St. Louis for further examinations.
Peralta injured his thumb in Saturday’s game making a backhand play, and while initial images showed a tear, the team is waiting on a second opinion to determine the severity of the injury.
"Concern is high," manager Mike Matheny said after Monday's game. "Obviously with the fact we have to send him back home. But we're not going to jump to any conclusions until we get word form the doctor there."
With Peralta hurt, who would you like to see start at Shortstop? Share your thoughts.
If the tear- similar to the one that necessitated Yadier Molina's offseason surgery- is as bad as initially believed, Peralta could miss as much as 2-3 months, which is a span of more than 50 regular season games. Peralta was a necessary element of consistency to last year's team (155 games played), which suffered major injuries to multiple big name players. Beyond the dependability, the team loses one of the best overall shortstops in the National League.
"The guy plays good defense every single day. Anything hit to him and anything around him, he makes plays," said Kolten Wong, who has played across from Peralta for two seasons. "He’s one of those guys that we’re going to miss dearly because he swings the bat well."
The first name on the list of potential replacements is Jedd Gyorko, who the club acquired through an offseason trade with San Diego for Jon Jay. Gyorko has a big swing (49 home runs over the last three seasons), but his experience at shortstop is limited to 29 games.
"I’ve put a little extra work into it," the 27-year-old said of focusing on the position this spring. "Just because at the professional level I’ve played more at the other two positions (third base and second base). Anyone will say shortstop is the hardest one of all the positions, so naturally it will take more time, and take the longest to get accustomed to. I think the month last year of getting to play there really helped me out a lot."
Another avenue for help has been Jose Oquendo. Gyorko has worked with the Cardinal infield instructor closely this spring on where to place himself and how to adjust in the field.
"I’ve leaned on him a lot this spring to get my work in. To have him show me know he knows as far as positioning. He’s one of the best when it comes to positioning. I think that’s something that I’m going to use a lot going forward," Gyorko said. "Each day I get more and more comfortable with him. That’s something that’s going to take time and reps. We’re getting enough in right now to be happy with where we’re at."
"He always works with every single guy. When you start up in big league camp, regardless of whether you make the team or not, you understand what [he] is doing," Wong added. "Whoever is going to take over Jhonny’s spot is going to know what they’re doing because they understand how to play the way he wants you to play."
Greg Garcia and Aledmys Diaz will both get additional work at short in spring games as the team looks for the best fit. Garcia figured to make the club as a utility man before Peralta got hurt, but he now has a chance to move into a platoon role with Gyorko or perhaps win the the spot outright. Though Garcia doesn't have the same pop in his bat, he has been a consistently effective hitter in his minor league career.
Diaz is a much longer shot, though his late season charge that propelled him from Double-A to Triple-A caught the attention of the team. So to did his marked defensive improvement.
"He looks like an overall different player," Matheny said of Diaz this spring. "His arm is healthy, you could tell last year he was trying to get that right. The ball is coming out of his hand better."
The 25-year-old Cuban had been moved around the infield in the early games of spring, but could now see more consistent work at short as March rolls on.
But Gyorko, who is signed with the team through potentially 2020 (team option) and making more than $20 million from the Cardinals will likely get the most opportunity, especially as the coaches look to evaluate their options.
"We understand he’s an offensive weapon," Matheny said. "Defensively he catches the ball, we know that about him, we just haven’t seen it at shortstop. There’s just things we need to see for ourselves."
He will also need to develop a rapport with Wong. The Cardinals turned 158 double plays last year, eighth most in the league. While not every one of those was turned up the middle, comfort between shortstop and second basemen is crucial to getting necessary outs when they're needed.
"We should have that by the end of spring," Wong said. "Me and Jedd are both infielders and we know how to work with each other. It’s going to take a little time to play more together and understand where each of us wants the ball. Where their strong suits are."
Mozeliak said if the team gets the worst case prognosis on Peralta, there exists the chance the Cardinals could go outside the organization for help. That would likely be in the form of a trade, but navigating those waters could be difficult for a number of reasons. The team does not expect to have results from the second opinion until Wednesday.