With Furcal struggling, Cardinals wonder about leadoff spot

JUPITER, Fla. -- Is it possible that the biggest question in the Cardinals batting order isn't Albert Pujols' absence in the third spot, but rather Rafael Furcal's presence in the leadoff spot?

Or absence, as the case may be, because manager Mike Matheny admitted Thursday that Furcal's spring struggles have led him to consider other options for the top of the order.

That definitely was not the plan when the Cardinals gave Furcal a two-year, $14 million deal to return as their shortstop and leadoff man.

Furcal's shortstop job is not in jeopardy, Matheny said, but he batted eighth on Thursday (with Daniel Descalso leading off), and Matheny indicated that he could use Descalso and/or Tyler Greene at to lead off into the regular season.

"There's going to be some fluctuation in that spot at the beginning," Matheny said.

Furcal has been almost exclusively a leadoff man during his 12-year big-league career (he has led off in 1,287 of his 1,428 career starts), but Tony La Russa did drop him to seventh for Game 7 of the World Series last October.

Furcal, who turned 34 last October, has a .224 on-base percentage this spring.

"He's just not right," Matheny said. "I know there's another gear. I know he knows there's another gear. He's not throttling back. He just hasn't found it yet."

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