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Club doesn't expect elbow to limit Furcal's preparation

JUPITER, Fla. -- Though the Cardinals will not rush Rafael Furcal's preparation process this spring, the club does not anticipate the shortstop having limitations because of his right elbow. Furcal's 2012 season ended in late August when he suffered a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in that elbow.

Furcal arrived in Jupiter on Wednesday and did his first bit of work at the Cardinals' complex on Thursday. He is cleared to hit, field and throw.

"He feels like he's pretty much on program," manager Mike Matheny said. "You have to realize what you had last year. We went pretty slow with him and he came out of the box carrying us. We understand that we can put him on a program and we'll be good as long as things point in a healthy direction."

Indeed, Furcal's Grapefruit League results last year caused some concern about his health and readiness for the season. He finished with just 10 hits in 52 at-bats. It had no carryover effect, though, as Furcal produced three three-hit games in the team's first four games of the season.

How cautious the Cardinals end up being with their starting shortstop this spring will ultimately be dictated by how Furcal feels as he gradually pushes himself further.

"We'll just watch," Matheny said. "We'll be listening to the trainers and what they say. We'll listen to what Raffy says and how he feels."