ST. LOUIS -- Plenty of Cardinals had bad injury luck this year, but it's hard to find a guy on the team with a more disappointing story than Al Reyes. The veteran right-hander had a career year on the mound, and then on the last day of the season, he sustained a torn medial collateral ligament in his right elbow.
Reyes underwent reconstructive surgery, known as the Tommy John operation, on Wednesday at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital in St. Louis County. Dr. George Paletta, a medical consultant to the Cardinals and the team's former head team physician, performed the operation.
Reyes had hoped to have the operation performed by Angels team physician Dr. Lewis Yocum, but Yocum was not available to perform it as soon as Reyes would have hoped. Thus he went with Paletta. Reyes hopes to pitch at some point in the 2006 season, since the recovery time for Tommy John surgery is 9-12 months -- and often on the lower end of that timetable for relief pitchers.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said that once Reyes has recuperated, he hopes to have the righty back in the bullpen.
"You're probably looking at 2007, but absolutely," La Russa said. "It was a good surgery. So he should be a plus by the time the season rolls around in 2007. He'll have not just 12 months, he's going to have 15 months or something. He showed us everything you want. He's a very cool customer in the toughest situations, a very good teammate."
Reyes went 4-2 with three saves and a 2.15 ERA in 2005. He held opposing batters to a .177 average, struck out 67 in 62 2/3 innings and issued just 20 walks.
Nunie's back: The Cardinals lineup is whole again, or at least as whole as it's going to get in 2005. Abraham Nunez returned to action on Wednesday night after missing two games with a contusion in his left quadriceps. Nunez was injured in a collision with Astros outfielder Jason Lane on a play at third base in Game 3.
"He had a good workout yesterday and he feels good," La Russa said.
Nunez is 8-for-21 (.381) and has not committed an error in the playoffs. John Mabry started at his place in Game 4, and Hector Luna played third in Game 5. All three players, along with Scott Seabol, helped hold down the position during the regular season after Scott Rolen was lost for the season, but Nunez emerged as the starter.
More history: Since the League Championship Series expanded to a best-of-seven format in 1985, the Cardinals are the 14th team to go home with a 3-2 series deficit. Based on history, it's a good news-bad news proposition. The previous 13 teams went only 6-7 in Game 6 at home. However, all six teams that forced a Game 7 at home went to the World Series -- including last year's Cardinals and the 2003 Marlins.
When you narrow it just to the NLCS, it's basically the same story -- 4-4 in Game 6, and of course still undefeated in Game 7.
This date in Cardinals postseason history: On Oct. 19, 1982, the Cardinals moved within a game of their first world championship since 1967 with a huge win over the Brewers in Game 6 of the World Series. Dane Iorg had two doubles and a triple and Keith Hernandez homered and drove in four runs as St. Louis beat Milwaukee, 13-1, at Busch Stadium. John Stuper went the distance for the Cards, allowing four hits and two walks and striking out two. Thanks to Project Retrosheet for the information.
Arizona update: The Surprise Scorpions were rained out on Tuesday in the Arizona Fall League. Cardinals farmhand Rich Scalamandre has been moved up from Surprise's taxi squad to the full roster.
Coming up: Should the Cardinals force a seventh game, they'll see a familiar face on the mound for the other guys. Roger Clemens, who started Game 7 of last year's NLCS, would get the assignment once again for Houston. Matt Morris would take the ball for St. Louis. The first pitch would be set for 7:28 p.m. CT, with a TV time of 7 p.m. CT on FOX nationwide.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.