Cards activate slugger Pujols off DL

The St. Louis Cardinals activated three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols off the disabled list Tuesday, a month ahead of schedule in his recovery from a broken left wrist.

Pujols was not in the lineup Tuesday night against Cincinnati. But manager Tony La Russa planned to use him off the bench in some capacity and said he expected Pujols would be in the lineup on Wednesday.

”Thrilled,” La Russa said. ”We all are. It’s about as good a break as we could catch.”

The team’s medical staff cleared Pujols to return earlier in the day. For a final test, Pujols had an active pregame. Clad in shorts, Pujols took his first round of live batting practice from first base coach Dave McKay, and also fielded dozens of grounders at first base.

”He’s not in the starting lineup because he hasn’t had a rigorous workout and I feel like it would be good for him to get one of those, and then play tomorrow,” La Russa said. ”I just try to use common sense.”

The NL Central-leading Cardinals placed left-handed reliever Brian Tallet on the 15-day disabled list with a ribcage injury that La Russa said had been bothering the pitcher for a while.

La Russa said there was no chance that Pujols could talk his way into the lineup Tuesday. Lance Berkman was playing first base and Matt Holliday was in Pujols’ No. 3 spot.

After taking indoor batting practice and fielding grounders outside Monday, Pujols said there was no pain and he felt great.

Tuesday was the first day Pujols is eligible to return from the 15-day DL. He broke the wrist in a collision at first base with the Royals’ Wilson Betemit on June 19, and the team initially believed Pujols would be out six weeks and could return at the start of August.

The Cardinals were 6-7 without Pujols but entered the day leading the division by one game over Milwaukee.

”That’s what our club has been doing, they’ve been doing a good job of compensating,” La Russa said.