JUPITER, FL. (KMOV.com) – The St. Louis Cardinals got some unwelcome news Sunday when manager Mike Matheny announced that infield coach Jose Oquendo may miss the entire 2016 season as he rehabilitates from knee surgery.
Oquendo is a fixture on the Cardinals’ staff, held over from previous coaching regimes because of his ability to instruct young infielders. But Oquendo’s worth extends beyond just infield instruction, as he is pivotal in positioning infielders in certain situations and according to scouting reports. Matheny has credited the 52-year-old with saving the club many runs over the course of the season.
“The medical staff is concerned if he gets out there and does what (he needs to do to coach) he may need a knee replacement,” Matheny said. “We are preparing as though he will be out for the season.”
Oquendo made his major league debut for the New York Mets in 1983 but really made his name during his 10-year career for the Cardinals, which ended in 1995. Oquendo played every game in the 1989 season as middle infielder along with the legendary Ozzie Smith. Later in his career, Cards’ skipper Whitey Herzog – who called Oquendo his “secret weapon” – played him at all nine positions in one game.
Matheny said those responsibilities will be spread out among the staff with Chris Maloney coaching third and Bill Mueller now at first. Mueller and bench coach David Bell will split infield coaching duties.
Oquendo has been on crutches for most of the spring and was clearly not going to be ready for opening day. “It’s not getting better and the medical team is concerned,” Matheny said, noting that Oquendo will remain in Jupiter to continue rehabilitation.
He said Maloney has experience at third and has watched how Matheny and Oquendo communicate so he expects little disruption or confusion.
In other news, the Cardinals further trimmed their roster toward the opening day limit of 25, sending out six more players, including two pitchers who had major league experience.
Sam Tuivailala and Miguel Socolovich both pitched last year for the Cardinals and will report to minor league camp. Tuivailala, 23, had a good spring until Sunday when he surrendered two runs in the sixth inning, ending with his spring ERA at 4.26. Matheny said he thought Tuivailala could have escaped that inning with no damage but for a miscommunication in the outfield between right fielder Stephen Piscotty and center fielder Tommy Pham. Piscotty started for the ball and pulled up as Pham appeared to be closing on it. Piscotty said after the game that the wind played havoc with his ability to judge the ball and said Pham did not call him off, leaving him uncertain as he saw him closing in. The ball dropped just out of reach and two runs scored, giving the Marlins the final margin of victory. “I’ll take responsibility for that,” Piscotty said.
Socolovich, 29, appeared in four games this spring but threw just seven innings with a 2.57 ERA.
Also sent down were Dean Kiekhefer, David Washington, Mike Ohlman and pitcher Tim Cooney. Matheny said Cooney was sent down to build up his arm strength so he could be ready to start. He also complimented Ohlman, saying he is one of the “most improved players in camp.”
The Cards still need to trim nine more players, barring a trip to the disabled list for a rostered player, such as Jordan Walden. Walden has been fighting arm and shoulder discomfort, but will probably throw Monday, Matheny said, adding he hoped that start would add clarity to Walden’s roster status.