New utility-man Nick Punto is the St. Louis Cardinals’ first casualty of Spring Training 2011, due to miss two to three months after it was revealed he’d need surgery for a sports hernia—Chris Duncan’s Disease, as it’s called in St. Louis. Punto had been limited in practice already; Derrick Goold reports Tony La Russa as suggesting he practice “under control” prior to this final revelation.
Punto was set to be the Cardinals’ top backup across the middle infield, with particular attention paid to third base, where fragile David Freese is the returning starter. His absence creates an opportunity for former Cardinals prospect Tyler Greene as well as non-roster players like Ramon Vasquez and Daniel Descalso. Backup outfielder Allen Craig’s bid to return to the third base depth chart will also be strengthened by Punto’s disappearance.
Punto signed with the Cardinals in January after a long career with the Minnesota Twins. He’s a career .247/.321/.322 hitter, which puts him within striking distance of unlocking the Brett Butler OBP > SLG career achievement.