MLB

Aside from cast, Pujols feels healthy

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ST. LOUIS (AP)

Albert Pujols feels healthy enough to be in the St. Louis Cardinals' lineup. Too bad for him, he's wearing a soft cast for a broken left wrist that's expected to sideline him for six weeks.

''To tell you the truth, I feel like I can play,'' Pujols said. ''I'll just be positive and be in the lineup before you know it.''

The three-time NL MVP, who was put on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday, wanted nothing to do with a question related to how the injury might affect upcoming free agency. After rebuking a reporter, seconds later Pujols ended a lengthy media session.

''That's a stupid question,'' Pujols said. ''That's ridiculous, come on. That's it.''

Pujols also bristled at the notion it's been an ''odd'' season thus far. Pujols cut off negotiations on a long-term contract extension at the start of spring training, then got off to a slow start.

He's batting .279, 50 points beneath his career average, although he's turned it up lately and is among the league leaders with 17 homers and 45 RBIs.

''It's not strange, man,'' Pujols said. ''We're in first place and this is not about me, this is about my team.''

Pujols was hurt taking an offline throw at first base Sunday when the Royals' Wilson Betemit collided with him. Before a CT scan revealed the fracture he had been optimistic that he hadn't been seriously hurt. He said he had full range of movement with the fingers.

''I had a good feeling that I was going to be just a little bruised, but obviously it wasn't,'' Pujols said. ''There was still a little pain that night but I feel good, no pain at all right now.

''I mean, what can you do? It's one of those crazy things that happens in the game.''

The injury will test lineup depth for a team that entered the night leading the NL Central and already minus third baseman David Freese and outfielder Allen Craig. Matt Holliday moved up one slot to third in the lineup, taking Pujols' spot, and Lance Berkman played first base and batted cleanup against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Jon Jay started in right field, Berkman's regular spot.

Manager Tony La Russa remained uncertain whether Berkman would serve as the full-time first baseman during Pujols' absence, saying he hadn't discussed the situation with him. This is the 35-year-old Berkman's first season as a regular outfielder since 2004 and he has said playing right field might be easier on his legs because there's less starting and stopping.

Pujols is hoping to beat the timetable that calls for a return in early August, but both he and management insist they won't rush it. He's on the DL for only the third time in his 11-year career, all with St. Louis.

''I've healed pretty well from injuries in the past and I'm planning to hopefully have one of those in my bag still,'' Pujols said. ''Obviously, there's no treatment I can do, I guess.

''I'll just keep my legs in shape and work out and do what I'm capable of doing without making it worse.''

Pujols is the 14th DL move for the Cardinals, who made 13 moves all last season. St. Louis went 14-14 in Pujols' two previous DL stints, the last one in 2008.

The Cardinals recalled first baseman-outfielder Mark Hamilton from Triple-A Memphis. Hamilton earlier hit .115 with one RBI in 26 at-bats with St. Louis, all but seven of those at-bats as a pinch hitter. He was batting .385 in the minors with two homers and 22 RBIs in 117 at-bats.

La Russa said Hamilton, who had a .505 on-base percentage at Memphis, has a shot to play more now given Pujols' absence, depending what the Cardinals do with Berkman.

''I think if he played he'd do some damage. But the priority is where can we get the most games out of Berkman, and I don't know that yet,'' he said. ''The more he can play, the better off we are.''

Tagged: Cardinals, Lance Berkman, Albert Pujols, Mark Hamilton

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