Cardinals guessing Pujols lost for more than a month

Updated: June 4, 2006, 1:48 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols will be re-examined Sunday but is expected to go on the disabled list after straining his right oblique muscle Saturday, and the club fears the injury will keep Pujols sidelined for a "significant" period.

Peek At The Oblique
What's involved: The two external abdominal oblique muscles lie on the sides and front of the abdomen and are the largest of the muscles in this area. These flat muscles are attached to the ribs and the pelvis in such a way that both muscles, acting together, bend the spine forward. One side acting alone can bend the vertebral column sideways and rotate it, bringing the shoulder of that side forward.
Diagnosis: A muscle pull, or strain, happens when a muscle is stretched more than normal, tearing some of the muscle fibers or partially detaching the tendon from the bone. Pain often starts when the muscle area is worked thereafter. A trainer can tell by asking the athlete certain questions.
Treatment: For the first 48 hours after the injury, ice and anti-inflammatory medications -- ibuprofen or aspirin -- are recommended to decrease the pain and speed recovery. Massage and heat can also help. But rest is best. After two days -- depending on the severity of the injury -- the athlete can start a gentle stretching program. Otherwise, it's important to avoid movements that cause pain or could aggravate the injury.

-- Source: WebMD (www.webmd.com)

"He's sore," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Sunday. "I think we'll disable him."

Although the move was not yet official, Pujols was not listed on the lineup card. Minor league call-up Chris Duncan was, and he took batting practice.

Pujols had not been examined by team physician Dr. George Paletta, so the team was uncertain how long last year's NL MVP would be sidelined. Pujols has 25 homers and 65 RBI.

Jim Edmonds, nursing an abdominal injury that has sidelined him for a week, played first base in place of Pujols. Scott Rolen was plugged into Pujols' No. 3 slot in the lineup.

Edmonds, an eight-time Gold Glove center fielder, has been unable to run since being injured. But La Russa noted that he can swing a bat, and said Edmonds would not worsen his injury by playing.

Pujols, who leads the major leagues with 25 home runs and 65 RBI and has averaged 158 games played in his first five seasons, left St. Louis' 8-5 loss to the Chicago Cubs after two innings. He pulled up and grabbed his right side on Aramis Ramirez's foul ball with one out in the second. He finished the inning at first base after consulting with a team trainer and St. Louis manager Tony La Russa but was replaced in the third.

"Obviously, we have significant concerns about the severity," team Paletta said. "This injury can put you out for weeks."

Paletta said Pujols, who would be making his first trip to the DL, could be out for as long as six weeks.

"If you told me right now he'd be out two weeks ... I'd buy you dinner the rest of the year," La Russa said Saturday. "I just don't think after talking to Dr. Paletta that two weeks from now, Albert will be ready to go.

Buster Olney's blog
Buster Olney
Albert Pujols is hurt, a devastating injury for the Cardinals. A handful of Baseball Tonight staffers were watching the Cardinals' game and saw Pujols reach to his lower back on his right side, and the first thing I thought was: Four weeks, at least.

• For more of Buster Olney's analysis, Click here. Insider

"He's going to miss a significant period of time," La Russa added.

John Rodriguez moved into the third slot, playing left field, and Hector Luna moved from left field to first base.

"He could come in [Sunday] and if he doesn't have a lot of soreness, you say, 'it's mild or a Grade I," Paletta was quoted as saying in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "If he comes in [Sunday] and he can't rotate his trunk at all, you say, 'it's severe, Grade II or Grade III.' "

An injury beyond Grade I probably would require a minimum two to six weeks' recovery, Paletta said.

"You can't play with this at 60-70 percent," trainer Barry Weinberg told the Post-Dispatch.

Pujols dressed and left Busch Stadium without speaking to the media. His outstanding start has prompted talk of the slugger challenging Barry Bonds' single-season record of 73 home runs.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.