Encarnacion likely out for 2008 season; MLB future in jeopardy

ST. LOUIS -- Juan Encarnacion's horrific eye injury is
expected to sideline him this season, and the St. Louis Cardinals
aren't sure if he'll ever play again.

Encarnacion was standing in the on-deck circle at Busch Stadium
on Aug. 31 when a foul ball struck him in the left eye. Soon after
the injury, Dr. George Paletta, the Cardinals' medical director,
called it the "worst trauma I've seen. Absolutely."

Paletta said at the time he wasn't certain if Encarnacion would
ever regain full vision.

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said Wednesday that
Encarnacion continues to seek treatment for the injury. Mozeliak
said he hasn't spoken to the outfielder since before Christmas.
Encarnacion turns 32 in March.

"As far as an update on whether he'll play or not I would say
it's probably likely he will not," Mozeliak said. "But until we
actually see him in St. Louis and get our own doctors to deal with
that, it will be hard for me to answer that firmly."

Calls to Encarnacion's agent, Eric Goldschmidt, were not
immediately returned.

At the time of the injury, Paletta said the eye socket was
essentially crushed on impact, and that the optic nerve had
sustained severe trauma.

Encarnacion hit .283 with nine homers and 47 RBIs in 78 games
last season. He missed the first month and a half recovering from
wrist surgery.

In 11 seasons, he has hit .270 with 156 home runs for Detroit, Cincinnati, Florida, the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis. He was
signed by the Cardinals before the 2006 season and has one year
remaining on his contract.

In addition to the potential loss of Encarnacion, the Cardinals
traded third baseman Scott Rolen and center fielder Jim Edmonds
this offseason, and declined to re-sign shortstop David Eckstein.

Still, Mozeliak thinks the team has flexibility in the outfield,
though he said another deal is possible.

Mozeliak said Chris Duncan will likely be the everyday left
fielder and Colby Rasmus, the organization's prized prospect, will
get a chance in spring training to earn a spot in center field.
Rick Ankiel, the one-time pitcher who hit 11 homers in 47 games
last season, can play center or right. Skip Schumaker and
Ryan Ludwick also are in the mix.

The Cardinals also selected outfielder Brian Barton in the
winter meeting draft (Rule 5) from the Indians. The 25-year-old
Barton has a .314 career average in 354 minor league games.