Dan's Dugout: Cards fall wrong way in St. Louis • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Cards fall wrong way in St. Louis

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The St. Louis Cardinals won’t admit it but they’re desperate to find a shortstop before the season starts.

Jhonny Peralta, an All-Star last summer, will miss at least half the season with a torn ligament in his left thumb.

The Cards near Yadier Molina in the playoffs

Yadier Molina

That’s an injury eerily similar to that suffered by Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina late last year. Molina tried to play through it when his 100-win team reached the playoffs but was merely a shadow of his usual persona.

Had he not been sidelined, the Cardinals almost certainly would have defeated the Chicago Cubs in the five-game Division Series and advanced to the NL Championship Series against the New York Mets.

Worried that his Redbirds might become also-rans early — especially after losing Jason Heyward and John Lackey to the Cubs as free agents — general manager Walt Jocketty is already on the prowl for a Peralta replacement.

Andrelton Simmons anchors the Angels infield

Andrelton Simmons

His top two targets are Ruben Tejada, a good-field, no-hit backup for the Mets, and fellow veteran Erick Aybar, a better bat who now belongs to Atlanta in the wake of the swap that sent Andrelton Simmons to the Los Angeles Angels.

Aybar would be better: his contract expires at the end of the 2016 season, when Peralta will be playing again. He’s available only because a Braves rookies named Ozzie Albies has been unstoppable all spring — as a hitter, runner, and fielder.

Peralta, meanwhile, is hardly the only player to suffer a devastating early-spring injury. Philadelphia outfielder Aaron Alherr, impressive as a rookie last year, had wrist surgery and could be out for the year.

A couple of new Tommy John surgeries have been announced too, with more to follow. Colorado’s Jairo Diaz is just the latest.

That’s what makes spring training so interesting — and so difficult to predict. Injuries can open many doors. In fact, that’s how home run king Hank Aaron got his big break.

Bobby Thomson, whose 1951 “shot heard ’round the world” was the

Hank Aaron

Hank Aaron

most dramatic home run in baseball history, broke his leg sliding three years later. Milwaukee Braves manager Charlie Grimm made a 20-year-old infielder the new leftfielder.

Henry Louis Aaron went on to hit 755 home runs and collect more runs batted in than any man in baseball history. He was also an All-Star 25 times, another record.

Elsewhere in baseball:

The Yankees concede that Aaron Judge will almost certainly succeed Carlos Beltran as the right man in right field next year . . .

Steve Grilli, former pitcher for several American League clubs, visited son Jason, Atlanta’s closer, at Champion Stadium Tuesday . . .

If he’s healthy by the time this season starts, Houston DH Evan Gattis — playing half his schedule in hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park — would be a darkhorse candidate to lead the American League in home runs . . .

The grandson of Sid Gordon, former outfielder for the New York Giants and Boston Braves, is part of the media group following the New York Mets this spring . . .

Throwing out the first ball at Champion Stadium Tuesday knocks another item off the bucket list for this reporter, who signed his new baseball book at the ballpark before the Mets-Braves game . . .

Surprise, surprise: Bobby Cox admitted before the game that

 Bobby Cox

Bobby Cox

handling controversial closer John Rocker wasn’t easy . . .

The Braves are talking to entities on both coasts of Florida about building a single-team spring training facility that would be ready for 2018. The team could even return to the Palm Beaches after a 20-year absence, according to several club officials.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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