09/20/2007 3:13 AM ET
Notes: Injury could end Pujols' season
Strained left calf has slugger doubtful for weekend series
By Daniel Berk / MLB.com
Albert Pujols says he has played this season at just 60-65 percent health. ST.LOUIS -- Unless Albert Pujols sees drastic improvement in his strained left calf in the next few days, his season could be over.
"I can't make that decision right now, it will be up to the trainers. ... But as of right now, no [I don't think I could play]," Pujols said. "Anything's possible, I guess. If I feel like I can play, I'll play.
"It's pretty bad. When I was warming up [Tuesday], during my first sprint, I felt a pop and just couldn't go."
Cards manager Tony La Russa and Pujols both said before Wednesday's game that Pujols was very doubtful for the weekend series against the Astros. After that series, Pujols will be re-evaluated. If it hasn't improved, he will then likely be shut down for the season.
Pujols said the calf was first aggravated last Saturday against the Cubs. Then, again on Monday, when he was running the bases, he felt a pop. He stayed in the lineup and played through it, but on Tuesday, when he felt another pop, it was enough.
After taking the field for his final stretches and sprints, he came back to the dugout and told La Russa that he had to be scratched from the lineup.
Pujols made a pinch-hitting appearance in the 13th inning, drawing a walk. He was immediately lifted for a pinch-runner, though. He started to jog to first base, but stopped and walked the rest of the way.
He said if he got a base hit, he probably wouldn't have been able to get to first base, and with a ball in the gap, he would have stopped at first base.
After the game, the former MVP needed crutches as he made his way to his car to leave the stadium after the Cards' 14-inning loss to the Phillies.
The slugger has battled a number of injuries this season, most notably a right hamstring problem. He said the trainers told him the calf injury could have been a product of running gingerly to protect the hamstring, but they weren't sure.
"I've been playing at about 60-65 percent all season," Pujols said. "It's been a disappointing year."
If Pujols has indeed played his last game of the season, it will end one of the more remarkable streaks in baseball. Pujols is the first player in Major League history to start his career with six straight 100 RBI seasons. Currently at 94, the All-Star isn't likely to make it.
"I've been proud of my numbers in the past because of our great teams," Pujols said. "What does 100 RBIs mean if we lost [all these] games? My only goal is to win as many World Series as possible."
Eck back, Edmonds out: Shortstop David Eckstein was back in the starting lineup for the first time this homestand. Eckstein missed the first five games with a sore lower back, and then pinch-hit on Tuesday, popping out.
Eckstein was not in La Russa's orginal starting lineup Wednesday, but after the manager checked in with the shortstop, he put him in there.
"He said he was good to go, so he's in there," La Russa said.
Center fielder Jim Edmonds remained out of the lineup with a sore groin. Edmonds missed Tuesday night's game, and was unavailable to pinch-hit, according to La Russa.
Edmonds said he didn't know how long he would be sidelined and he was feeling about the same as he did Tuesday.
La Russa linked to Seattle: Before Wednesday's game, La Russa was asked about a report published on Tuesday that said La Russa might leave the Cardinals to manage the Mariners next season.
"No reaction," La Russa said.
When asked if there was anything to the report, La Russa replied, "I don't think so."
La Russa said he hasn't discussed his future with Cards management yet, and is just focused on finishing the 2007 season strong.
Ryan apologizes: During Tuesday night's game, infielder Brendan Ryan was pulled from the game at the end of first inning after he swung at a 3-0 pitch.
La Russa said after Tuesday's game that that was unacceptable at the big league level. As Ryan was leaving the stadium early Wednesday morning, he ran into La Russa and apologized for his gaffe.
Before Wednesday's game, La Russa said it wasn't a big deal, and he was over it. Ryan was in the orginal starting lineup, but once Eckstein said he could play, La Russa made the switch.
"He made a mistake and it's over," La Russa said. "It was 3-0 and a take sign."
Kennedy visits: Injured second baseman Adam Kennedy was back in the Cardinals' clubhouse for the first time since early August.
Kennedy underwent surgery to repair a torn MCL and is out for the season. He came back to field ground balls before the game with the team and take some hacks in the batting cages.
"I already feel a lot better, and it's still getting stronger," Kennedy said.
Coming up: The Cards will open a four-game series with the Astros on Thursday. Braden Looper (12-10, 4.55 ERA) will start for the Cards, while the Astros will counter with lefty Wandy Rodriguez (8-13, 4.83 ERA). First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. CT.
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