Cards slugger DHing in Arlington

Updated: June 12, 2004, 7:55 PM ET
Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas -- St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols returned to the starting lineup as the designated hitter Friday night against the Texas Rangers after missing four games with a strained left hamstring.

Albert Pujols
First Base
St. Louis Cardinals
56 17 40 53 2 .324

Pujols injured his leg running the bases in the sixth inning of St. Louis' 3-2 loss Sunday to Houston. The Cardinals went 2-2 without him.

He batted third Friday night and grounded out in his first at-bat.

Pujols said he's going to take it easy his first few games back.

"I'm not 100 percent, but I can go out there and play under control," Pujols said.

The injury came during a recent offensive surge for Pujols. He had hit five homers in nine games to boost his total to 17.

Pujols had reached base in 23 straight games and had three four-hit performances in a nine-game span to boost his average up to .325 entering Friday.

He had not missed a start this season before the injury.

"I'm glad and I'm happy to be back," Pujols said. "Hopefully, I'll keep it going the way it was before I got hurt."

Pujols has finished second in NL MVP voting the past two seasons.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press