Schafer's UCL repaired instead of replaced

Two-way player gets good news upon waking up from elbow surgery

March 17th, 2017

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Though he was prepared to miss the 2017 season regardless, Cardinals non-roster invitee received a bit of good news when he woke up from surgery Friday to learn that he had not undergone reconstructive elbow surgery.

Instead of replacing Schafer's ulnar collateral ligament, Cardinals team doctor George Paletta performed a repair of the ligament. By avoiding Tommy John surgery, Schafer has an estimated recovery time of seven months. If the ligament had been replaced, recovery would have taken at least a year.

Schafer signed a Minor League contract with the Cardinals on Dec. 12 and entered Spring Training trying to prove himself as a two-way player. The Cards were intrigued by the possibility of having a player on their roster who could pinch-run, pinch-hit and play the outfield in addition to coming out of the bullpen.

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Schafer, 30, converted to pitching last season after logging time in the Majors as a position player in six of the previous seven seasons. He had a 3.83 ERA over 40 games as a pitcher over three Minor League levels -- including six games in Triple-A -- in the Dodgers' system in 2016.

This spring, Schafer allowed four runs over 3 2/3 innings. He started to feel discomfort in his left forearm, however, during his final two outings, which prompted the Cardinals to request an MRI. The scan confirmed that Schafer required surgery, though it wasn't until Dr. Paletta began the procedure that everyone knew the extent of the damage to Schafer's ligament.

Schafer will be a free agent again after this season. It's unknown whether the Cardinals, at that point, will be interested in trying him out as a two-way player again next year.