WASHINGTON • The Cardinals placed shortstop Rafael Furcal on the disabled list Friday, a move that represents a tacit admission that the All-Star defender will miss the remainder of the season with a damaged elbow ligament.
An MRI performed on Furcal's elbow discovered a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament. A decision remains on whether Furcal, 34, requires ligament replacement surgery, a procedure that would require a rehab of six to eight months for a position player.
The injury rips at the Cardinals' defensive fabric at a time when the club is clinging to the league's second wild-card berth.
Furcal also generated much of the club's pulse since being acquired July 31, 2011, from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"He's been a great addition to this team and we hate to see that happen to him," manager Mike Matheny said. "But we've had many of those (injuries) happen throughout the season. It's just an opportunity for someone else to step up, not just at shortstop, but to pick up the slack with the energy that he brings every day."
The Cardinals promoted infielder Pete Kozma from Class AAA Memphis and immediately placed him in the starting lineup. The start was the fourth of Kozma's major-league career and his first this season.
The Cardinals' first-round selection in the 2007 amateur draft, Kozma batted .234 in 131 games at Memphis. He also led the club with 63 RBIs while hitting 11 home runs. Kozma played less frequently at shortstop than Ryan Jackson but had received greater exposure there during Jackson's recent call-ups to the parent club.
General manager John Mozeliak elected to promote Kozma over Jackson, though Jackson is expected to be among those promoted following next week's conclusion to the Pacific Coast League season.
Mozeliak convened a meeting Friday to examine outside alternatives but decided "at this point it's going to remain internal."
To be eligible for the postseason, a player had to be under an organization's control by midnight. Teams may continue to acquire players in September who would not be eligible for the playoffs.
"If at some point we could help ourselves by going outside, we'd explore it," said Mozeliak.
Matheny declined to say how a timeshare would work at shortstop. Daniel Descalso, who has made 11 starts there, will receive significant exposure at the position against right-handed pitching.
"Pete is going to get an opportunity tonight and we'll take it from there," Matheny said. The manager described whatever Kozma offers at the plate as "a bonus."
"Defensively, he's always been solid," Mozeliak said. "The question's been, how much could he hit?"
Furcal suffered the injury when making a throw from deep in the hole between shortstop and third base during Thursday's 8-1 loss to the Washington Nationals.
Furcal described a "pop" in the elbow when he threw to second base during a sixth-inning force out. He lobbied Matheny to leave him in the game but was unable to loop a throw 40 feet without grimacing when challenged by his manager.
This season marked only the second time in five years Furcal played more than 100 games. He recently received an injection to alleviate back stiffness and has been bothered by a shin issue most of the season.
His declining offensive numbers led to Furcal's recent removal from the leadoff role to the No. 8 spot in the batting order. Furcal's season ends with a .264 average, five home runs, 49 RBIs and a .325 on-base percentage. After hitting .333 (66 for 198) with 37 runs through May, Furcal labored to a .215 average (60 for 279) with 32 runs in three months since.
The club, meanwhile, entered Friday having scored one run in its past 30 innings while being outscored 22-1 during a three-game losing streak. "Offensively, we've hit a low point for the season," Mozeliak said.