ST. LOUIS - Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak figured finding a shortstop would be at the top of his offseason to-do list. Not anymore.
An MRI taken Monday of shortstop Rafael Furcal's right elbow revealed that his torn ligament is completely healed and the club now projects he will be 100 percent by the start of spring training.
"Based on his MRI and the doctors' hands on (examination), he's a player with a completely healed ligament, Mozeliak said Tuesday.
Furcal suffered the injury while making a throw on August 30, forcing him to miss the rest of the season. He attempted to speed up the healing with an injection of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) in early September.
The Cardinals were pessimistic about Furcal's recovery during late September and the postseason, saying they weren't sure they could commit to him being ready to start next season and likely needed to add depth there this winter.
But that appears to have changed with the recent news of Furcal's progress. He will begin a formal throwing program in January and should enter spring training with no limitations in February.
"A lot of times when people have these injuries, they are at the ballpark, trying to get back sooner than they probably should, Mozeliak said. "But in his case it happened at the end of the season where he was allowed to just rest and I think giving him time off the field was probably the best thing we could have done.
"He's been throwing, but as far as like a formalized throwing program, that will begin in January but he's allowed to go out and play catch. Really between now and January he'll focus on conditioning.
Furcal hit .264 in 121 games for the Cardinals last year and was named to the third All-Star Game of his career. He's due 7 million in 2013, the final installment of a two-year deal he signed last winter.
DICKSON HEADING TO JAPAN
The Cardinals have officially announced the sale of right-handed pitcher Brandon Dickson to the Orix Buffaloes of the Pacific League in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball League.
Dickson made four appearances for the Cardinals in 2012, allowing five earned runs and 10 hits in 6 13 innings. He pitched much better for Triple-A Memphis, posting a 3.63 ERA in 141 13 innings. Dickson didn't figure into the Cardinals plans in 2013 with talented young arms Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly looking ready to stick at the big league level.
"It's a great opportunity for him to establish himself and make some dollars, Mozeliak said. "We knew his opportunities here were limited. I'd still like having him because I still think he's pretty good but this was just too good of a deal for him.
"Some guys have gone over there and bounced themselves backed into the major leagues here so he saw it as a good spring board but he has to go over there and have success so I wish him well.
CARDINALS ADD OUTFIELD DEPTH
The Cardinals have agreed to a minor league deal with outfielder Justin Christian and invited him to their Major League spring training camp. The right-handed hitter struggled to a .125 batting average (7-for-56) in 34 games with the San Francisco Giants last year but hit .343 in 72 games with Triple-A Fresno.
Christian, 32, could compete with Shane Robinson for an outfield spot on the Cardinals bench. The 10-year minor league veteran played in 24 games for the Yankees in 2008 and 18 for the Giants in 2011. He is a career .203 hitter (26-for-143) in parts of three big league seasons. Christian played part of his college ball at nearby SEMO and played for the River City Rascals independent league team in St. Louis in 2003 before being signed by the Yankees.