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Thursday, January 22, 2009
Glaus deals with another major injury


Shut out entirely of the free-agent and trade markets thus far this winter, the Cardinals suffered a painful hit to their current roster Thursday when it was revealed that Troy Glaus underwent surgery to clean out his right shoulder.

Glaus is slated to miss 12 weeks, putting his estimated timetable for recovery sometime around mid-April. He's virtually guaranteed to begin the season on the disabled list, and since he might not even resume baseball activities until April 15 -- certainly meaning he'll require a rehabilitation stint -- chances are May 1 will be the absolute earliest we'll see him back in the Cardinals' lineup.

In fact, accounting for Glaus' injury history -- he has missed 255 of 972 games the past six seasons combined (26.2 percent) -- there's a greater chance he'll be back even later than that. And even after Glaus is healthy enough to return, a player with so many DL stints will be a constant risk to return to the shelf later in the year.

A healthy Glaus is capable of hitting 30-plus home runs, but chances are he'll struggle to appear in more than 125 games, if that many. He was a top-15 third baseman before surgery; after it he'll probably fall outside the top 20 at his position. Glaus' .256 career batting average, killing teams in the category, as well as his vastly increased health risk, make him a far riskier choice in shallow mixed formats.

Fortunately for the Cardinals, one thing Glaus' surgery does is allows them to showcase two of their top young third-base talents, David Freese and 2008 first-rounder Brett Wallace. Freese becomes the favorite to win the Opening Day job, after batting .306 with 26 home runs at Triple-A Memphis in 2008. He came over from the Padres in the Jim Edmonds trade the winter before. NL-only owners should tuck his name away and monitor his progress in the spring, as he'll get a long look in the role come March. One concern: His 2.8-to-1 strikeout-to-walk (4.2 at-bats per K) rate at Memphis.

Wallace, meanwhile, batted .337 with eight home runs and 36 RBIs in 54 games combined between Class A Quad Cities and Double-A Springfield after signing, and is assuredly the team's future at the position. He'll probably get a chance to win the job out of camp, but much more likely is about a half-season to a full season away from being big league-ready. Of course, Albert Pujols, then a third baseman, found himself in similar circumstances during spring training in 2001, and we all know how that one worked out …

Among alternatives in the event neither prospect pans out: Joe Mather, a slugging outfielder who made a three-inning appearance at third base June 13 and once made 22 appearances at the hot corner in Class A ball in 2004; and Brendan Ryan, a light-hitting utility infielder. Mather might have some NL-only appeal based on his home-run potential, but expect a mediocre batting average if he's the winner.

Tristan H. Cockcroft is a fantasy baseball, football and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.