Jordan Schafer is still set to miss the 2017 season, but his path to recovery will be significantly accelerated after he was able to go elbow ligament repair surgery.
When the St. Louis Cardinals announced that pitcher/outfielder Jordan Schafer would undergo elbow surgery earlier this week, they left open the possibility that the two-way player could either undergo traditional Tommy John surgery or the new procedure that team physician Dr. George Paletta has been performing over the past year–often affectionately referred to as “Seth Maness surgery” because Maness was its first high-profile recipient–which repairs the player’s existing ulnar collateral ligament, rather than taking a ligament from another part of the body and replacing the UCL entirely.
Schafer indeed ended up undergoing the newer procedure on Friday, which means that he’ll be able to return in roughly seven months. That still wipes out his 2017 season, as he won’t be back to full health until October, but it puts him on a much better track than he would have been if he had normal Tommy John.
Schafer, who has been pitching for just over a year, will now be able to spend the offseason working on pitching and will have the option to make another bid at reaching the big leagues as a two-way player next spring if a club is so inclined to give him an opportunity. Schafer’s contract expires at the end of this season, but considering the Cardinals’ optimism about his ability to pull off the unprecedented feat of being a big-league pitcher/outfielder, it wouldn’t be surprising if they gave him another chance next season.
Considering the way the Cardinals planned to utilize Schafer prior to his injury, it’s worth wondering whether he might see action as a non-pitcher before the season is over. If the Cardinals wanted to keep him active, they could use him as a full-time pinch runner in the minor leagues, much like the Dodgers organization did with outfielder Robbie Garvey back in 2015.