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LOUIS -- Jaime Garcia has returned from a visit to noted orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, who recommended that Garcia not immediately undergo surgery to address what has been diagnosed as a rotator cuff strain and inflammation in his left shoulder.
Instead, Garcia will begin a rehab program with the intention of being re-evaluated in two or three weeks by Cardinals head physician Dr. George Paletta. The hope is that rehab will properly eliminate the discomfort in Garcia's shoulder, which would allow him to avoid surgery.
"To me, it's at least a plan," general manager John Mozeliak said. "There's nothing that is screaming surgery. Dr. Andrews felt like getting him some rehab to see if he can work through it is fine. And from a medical standpoint, we're fine with that."
Garcia said he expects to begin playing catch in about two weeks. That will be the point when he'll get a better gauge on how his shoulder is responding to the rest and rehab. Garcia has not pitched since Oct. 8, when he had to leave his National League Division Series start prematurely due to left shoulder discomfort.
"Basically, the thing that I asked him was, 'Do you think I can get back to where it was right before that game?'" Garcia said. "There's some stuff in my shoulder that I know is in there. And I can deal with that. He believes that I might as well give it a try."
In a few weeks, if Garcia's shoulder feels like it did when he last came off the mound, he plans to opt for surgery. Any sort of procedure would likely cost him some portion of the 2013 season.
"What I told them is, 'I'll be able to tell,'" Garcia said. "If it's still the same, we're probably going to do the surgery. But I'm not thinking about that right now. ... We'll try [the rehab] and if it works, good. And if not, we'll move forward."
The decision to forgo immediate surgery represents a change of expectation, as it was only a week ago that Mozeliak said he anticipated Garcia would need exploratory shoulder surgery before the end of the month. That came after Garcia had his magnetic resonance imaging exam read by Dr. Paletta and New York orthopedic surgeon David Altcheck.
Garcia asked to visit Dr. Andrews before finalizing plans for any procedure.
Garcia will not return to the mound this postseason even though it would be within the rules for the Cards to add him back onto their 25-man roster should the team advance to the World Series. Mozeliak said Garcia's rehab program will be similar to the one the lefty worked through this summer, when the same shoulder injury interrupted his season.
Garcia lasted only two innings in a June 5 start and didn't start again for the Cardinals until Aug. 19. With the offseason approaching, Garcia will be able to take more time off this winter than he did during the season to rest his shoulder.
Due $22.5 million over the next three seasons, Garcia projects to be a part of St. Louis' rotation for several years.