Monday, June 20, 2011

Albert Pujols

Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols will miss four to six weeks with a small fracture in his left forearm, an injury that creates a gaping hole in the St. Louis lineup while vastly altering the dynamic of the National League Central race.
The Cardinals announced today that an MRI showed a non-displaced fracture of the left radius and that the All-Star's arm was placed in a splint.
Pujols was injured Sunday in a baseline collision with Kansas City's Wilson Betemit when Pujols came off first base to catch a wide throw from second baseman Pete Kozma. He will be placed on the disabled list and a roster replacement announced before Tuesday's game against Philadelphia. The Cardinals are off today.
The Cardinals have the bodies and versatility to fill out their lineup but are unlikely to find the production to match that of the nine-time All-Star and reigning National League home run and RBI champion. It also could be a test run for the future because Pujols is in the final year of his contract and has told the Cardinals he will not discuss a new deal until after the season.

The quickest fix at first base is to move Lance Berkman from the outfield back to the position he played regularly for the previous eight seasons in Houston. Berkman has outhit Pujols this year, ranking third in the NL with a 1.022 OPS and second with a .421 on-base percentage. Berkman has 17 home runs, 51 RBI and a .308 batting average.
Pujols is batting .279, 50 points below his career average, with 17 homers, 45 RBI and an .855 OPS.
Berkman has been sharing time in the outfield with Matt Holliday, Colby Rasmus and Jon Jay. Four-time All-Star Holliday, who's also been on the DL this season, is hitting .347 and Jay .313. Colby Rasmus, the regular center fielder, is hitting .258. Andrew Brown, who was hitting .351 with 11 homers at Class AAA Memphis, was called up June 12 when Allen Craig went on the disabled list but has just 13 at-bats and three hits.
Craig -- he has played first base, second base, third base in addition to outfield -- is hitting .336 but on the disabled list for several more weeks because of a knee cap that was fractured running into a wall June 7 in Houston. Craig's situation was similar to Pujols in that the Cardinals first called Craig's injury a contusion, then later found the fracture. Pujols' injury was announced as a strained wrist after he left Sunday's game.
The Cardinals also could recall first baseman Mark Hamilton, 0-for-12 in previous brief action with St. Louis this season, but hitting .385 at Memphis. Plus, third baseman David Freese is beginning an injury rehab assignment tonight with Memphis and could be back with the Cardinals by next week. He suffered a broken wrist when hit by a pitch May 1.
"We've been tested enough," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said after Sunday's game. "Let's quit having to prove it."
Despite all the injuries, which include star pitcher Adam Wainwright missing the entire season, the Cardinals are tied with Milwaukee for the NL Central lead and two games ahead of defending champion Cincinnati.
The division race has been a battle of attrition. A series of injuries has forced Cincinnati to use 19 pitchers already this season and Milwaukee has gotten only nine starts and a 5.23 ERA from former AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke thanks to a pre-season rib injury.
The Brewers are the healthiest of the top three at the moment -- but stay tuned.

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