Oquendo won't return in 2016 after surgery

Third-base coach undergoing right knee replacement in May

Oquendo won't return in 2016 after surgery

ST. LOUIS -- Jose Oquendo announced that he will be undergoing right knee replacement surgery next month, which will preclude him from returning to the Cardinals' coaching staff this season.

The Cardinals granted Oquendo a leave of absence late in Spring Training so that the veteran third-base coach and infield instructor could focus on rehabbing his surgically repaired right knee at his home in Jupiter, Fla. He traveled to St. Louis this week to follow up with the Cardinals' team doctor, who confirmed that a knee replacement is now necessary.

That diagnosis extinguished any hope the Cardinals had of getting Oquendo back in uniform before the end of the year.

"I was hoping I didn't have to go through that, but it is what it is," Oquendo said on Saturday, while visiting with players in the Cardinals' clubhouse. He added that a six-month recovery period is expected to follow the surgery.

Oquendo was not ready to speculate about a potential return next season. He has said before that he would like to eventually transition into a Minor League instructing role, and that move could be made sooner rather than later. Already this month, Oquendo has been working with some of the organization's young prospects at the Cardinals' Florida complex, which is where he goes for rehab.

"We'll see what the plan is later," Oquendo said. "I'm probably going to stay in baseball somehow in whatever capacity that is. Teaching is in my blood, and I love my teaching no matter what level it is, here or there. It's fun to teach guys and see the improvement and see the progress."

Oquendo, who has been the team's third-base coach since 1999, has watched almost all of the Cardinals' games and remains in touch with a handful of players on the big league team. Oquendo noted that he has texted specifically with Kolten Wong and sent the second baseman video to help him improve his fielding technique.

Of Aledmys Diaz, Oquendo said he sees a young player still gaining confidence at the Major League level.

"He just needs to take his time settling down with it," Oquendo said of the rookie shortstop, who has committed five errors. "I think he's done that the last four games or so. I think the more he plays, the more confidence he gets, I think all the way around he's going to be a plus player."

In Oquendo's absence, the Cardinals have called upon bench coach David Bell and first-base coach Bill Mueller to serve as infield instructors.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. 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.