Pujols returns to Cardinals’ lineup

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Now that Albert Pujols is back in the St. Louis lineup, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he’d love to see the slugger end up in the All-Star Game as an injury substitution.

The three-time NL MVP returned to action Wednesday night against Cincinnati, a day after being activated from the 15-day disabled list a month ahead of schedule from a broken left wrist. Noting the All-Star break is fast approaching, La Russa believes the last thing Pujols needs right now is time off.

La Russa’s only objection would be if Pujols was part of the Home Run Derby competition, which can be wearing on a player. Several years ago, Jim Edmonds hurt his shoulder going for the fences.

“Hopefully not the home run contest, that wouldn’t be good,” La Russa said. “But to play, yeah. He’s got five games before the break and he’ll take four days off, that’s not all that great for him.

“If he had a chance to play Tuesday, I’d be all for it. Absolutely.”

La Russa added that those were just his thoughts and that he hadn’t spoken with Pujols. He wasn’t surprised Pujols wasn’t picked because no one expected him to be active, given the Cardinals had estimated he’d be out until August.

“When you’re deliberating you’re talking about a guy that wasn’t going to play,” La Russa said. “You’re talking about legitimate competition. Unless you just want to do the ceremonial thing.”

Pujols was among the league leaders with 17 homers and 45 RBIs and was hitting .279 when he was injured June 19 when he tried to make a tag play at first base with his glove on Wilson Betemit of the Kansas City Royals. When he was activated on Tuesday, Pujols said he hadn’t deserved to make the All-Star team.

In his first major league decade, Pujols is a nine-time All-Star.

Pujols did not play in Tuesday night’s 8-1 victory over the Reds because La Russa said he hadn’t been needed. Pujols went through an extensive workout prior to that game.

Pujols and Matt Holliday were on the field for early batting practice before Wednesday night’s game. Pujols said Tuesday the wrist would be taped to add support and that he might wear some sort of brace on the basepaths.

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