As it is, Gonzales is facing a 12-to-15 month recovery time following the elbow procedure, which will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Friday. Gonzales visited with ElAttrache last week for a second opinion on an injury he suffered during a Minor League game on March 28.
"He's got a long road ahead of him as far as bouncing back from this injury and figuring out how to keep moving forward with the steps that he had made in Spring Training," manager Mike Matheny said. "In the meanwhile, somebody else has to jump in and be the guy if we need it.
The Cardinals aren't just down Gonzales, though. Lefty Tim Cooney, who, like Gonzales, was expected to headline the Memphis rotation, remains sidelined by shoulder soreness that first surfaced the first week of Spring Training. Even though the medical staff has been unable to identify a source for the discomfort through MRIs and X-rays, Cooney has repeatedly said he doesn't feel quite right.
Cooney, the club's eighth-ranked prospect, is on the Triple-A disabled list with no clear timeframe for returning to the Triple-A rotation.
"When you look at what we have going on in Memphis, it's not as strong as what we thought it was going to be," general manager John Mozeliak said. "But that's not to say we're in a panic mode by any means. Also, I think it's in the back of our minds that we have a guy like a [Alex] Reyes that in a month or two could be available."
Reyes, the Cardinals' top ranked prospect, is serving the remainder of a 50-game suspension for a drug of abuse and will be eligible to join a team in mid-May. Until then, he will keep his arm conditioned by pitching in extended Spring Training games.
The organization intended to have Reyes join one of its affiliates once he was cleared to return, though circumstances, Mozeliak acknowledged, could necessitate a rushed arrival in the Majors, if there is a need.
"When all of a sudden the two guys you thought were going to be available aren't," Mozeliak said, "the depth chart changes."
If the Cardinals were to need starting pitching help before then, they'd most likely pluck Deck McGuire or Jeremy Hefner out of the Triple-A rotation. Neither is currently on the team's 40-man roster.