Oquendo unsure of future plans

Longtime Cardinals coach has had two surgeries on right knee since end of 2015 season

Oquendo unsure of future plans

JUPITER, Fla. -- Jose Oquendo knows how he'll spend the next few months. He'll be here in Florida, rigorously rehabbing a right knee that has been operated on twice since the end of the 2015 season, enjoying quality time with family and checking in on area Minor Leaguers.

He has not, however, determined his plans beyond that.

A day after the Cardinals announced Oquendo's medical leave of absence, the 52-year-old coach was not ready to assure that he'd be back on the Major League coaching staff at all. He has talked previously about eventually transitioning into a role where he could work with players at the affiliates near his Florida home.

"Maybe this is the start," Oquendo said. "I don't know yet. I can't tell you what I'm going to do two, three months from now."

If Oquendo isn't ready for that role change, there's every indication that manager Mike Matheny would welcome him back to the coaching staff. Matheny tried to talk him out of stepping aside by offering him a coaching role in which he could assist from the bench.

"I told him I'd carry him around piggyback," Matheny confirmed.

Oquendo turned it down, believing that if he couldn't fulfill all his usual job responsibilities that he should instead walk away.

Jose Oquendo is considered one of the top infield instructors in the game. (AP)

"To not be able to hit fungoes or help out or whatever, that's killing me," Oquendo said. "These couple weeks have been killing me, limping out there to talk to them. I think this is the best for everybody to have somebody instead of me just halfway being able to do things."

Oquendo, a member of the Cardinals' coaching staff since 1999, has long been considered one of the top infield instructors in the game. He has helped numerous players through position conversions, including, most recently, Matt Holliday, and has guided the club through its increased implementation of defensive shifts. The native Puerto Rican also has a unique connection to several of the club's Spanish-speaking players.

He plans to stay in touch with several of them this season and will likely visit with the team when it travels to Miami in July. Mostly, though, his focus will be on getting himself right.

"I had two surgeries in one year, and if I can't get it healed right, I'm looking at a [knee] replacement," Oquendo said. "I'm trying to avoid that. It's not fair for me to go coach third limping and not being able to get out of the way. I'll make it worse if I go out there.

"It's never easy," he added. "You just move on."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.