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Cardinals 3B coach Jose Oquendo takes medical leave of absence

JUPITER, Fla. -- St. Louis Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo could miss the season while recovering from surgery on his right knee.

The team said Sunday that the 52-year-old former big league infielder was taking a medical leave of absence for rehabilitation.

"(Doctors) are just concerned that he gets out there and does what he needs to do for this job, that it would certainly lead toward a replacement, which no one likes the idea of, right?" Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "So, he's just got to take time."

First base coach Bill Maloney handled third base coaching duties this spring while Oquendo recovered and will continue to do so.

Assistant hitting coach Bill Mueller will coach first base and assume Oquendo's infield instruction duties. Mueller and bench coach David Bell will share in-game defensive player positioning duties, another of Oquendo's key roles.

Derrick May, the Cardinals' minor league hitting coordinator, will now serve as the Cardinals' assistant hitting coach.

Oquendo missed several days earlier this spring when he underwent knee surgery. He returned to camp on March 20, walking with the aid of crutches. He has not returned to the third base coach's box since the surgery.

Upon his return, Oquendo said he expected to be ready to resume his duties once the regular season began.

"The timing wasn't ideal," Matheny said. "Jose was optimistic. Things just weren't getting better. The medical team was getting more concerned about, if he pushed it what the ramifications would be."

Matheny said he expected Oquendo to remain in Florida, where he has a home, during the rehab process.

Oquendo has been part of the Cardinals' big league coaching staff since 1999. He enjoyed a 17-year career in the majors that included 10 seasons with St. Louis.