S T. L O U I S, Sept. 29, 2000 -- Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny is out for theseason after slicing his right ring finger with a hunting knifetoday, hampering St. Louis’ playoff hopes.
Matheny cut himself with the knife, a birthday gift he had justopened, and was in surgery as shocked teammates learned the news ina team meeting about 3½ hours before a game against Cincinnati.
Matheny was putting the knife in its sheath and it went rightthrough, severing two flexor tendons and a nerve, Cardinalsspokesman Brian Bartow said. The team anticipates he’ll make a fullrecovery for next season.
“I feel worse for him than I do for us,” manager Tony La Russasaid.
The loss could be a serious blow to the National League Central champions.Matheny, a contender for a Gold Glove, threw out 51 percent(46-for-90) of would-be base stealers and hit .261 with 22 doubles,six homers and 47 RBIs.
“To me, he’s our MVP,” closer Dave Veres said. “We couldn’thave won without him, and I’m sure a lot of guys feel the sameway.”
The backups at the position are Carlos Hernandez, acquired justbefore the trade deadline, and Eli Marrero. Hernandez, who was onthe Padres’ 1998 World Series team, has been bothered by a badback, and Marrero has played sparingly after missing about twomonths because of a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Marrero played today and La Russa said Hernandez would start onSaturday. La Russa wouldn’t reveal his post-season plans for theposition.
Marrero was hitting .230 in 51 games with five homers and 17RBIs and had thrown out seven of 13 base-stealers, but the Cardinalsconsider him weaker at calling pitches. Hernandez had thrown outsix of 21 base-stealers and was batting .258 with two homers and 32RBIs in 72 games.
“The games are still going to be played and they’re still goingto count,” La Russa said. “So we need to understand what Mikemeant and get ready to play without him.
“I mean, it’s a situation we’ve faced before, a whole bunch of times.”
The team has overcome several major injuries this season. MarkMcGwire was out two months with a bad knee and has been reduced topinch hitting since his return earlier this month. Third basemanFernando Tatis missed about two months with a torn groin, andpitcher Andy Benes was out of the rotation about a month with aknee injury that will require surgery after the season.
“We’ve just got to persevere,” pitcher Pat Hentgen said. “We lost Tatis, we lost McGwire and here we are with 94 wins. We’ve gotten this far because we have 25 good players that can play thegame, and I think we’ll continue to win.”
Matheny’s injury continues a Cardinals tradition of losing keyplayers right around the post-season.
In 1996, Ray Lankford tore the rotator cuff in his left shouldermaking a diving catch on the second-to-last day of the regularseason, and pitcher Donovan Osborne cut his pitching hand when hepulled a broken bottle of champagne out of a box during theclinching celebration.
In 1987, they made it to the World Series without Jack Clark(sprained ankle) and Terry Pendleton (rib cage), and in 1985 VinceColeman was injured by a mechanical tarp.