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Among the top options are first baseman-outfielder Mark Hamilton and infielder Tyler Greene, both of whom were optioned to Triple-A Memphis last week.

St. Louis was tied with the Brewers atop the NL Central despite the latest in a string of injuries. Pujols was hurt three days after cleanup hitter Matt Holliday returned from a quadriceps injury that landed him on the 15-day disabled list, and Holliday also missed time following an appendectomy.

Third baseman David Freese, second baseman Skip Schumaker and pitcher Kyle McClellan also have missed significant time for a franchise that early in spring training lost 20-game winner Adam Wainwright for the season.

“It’s tough,” pitcher Kyle Lohse said. “It’s kind of been the story to the season, it just seems like every month something’s happening.”

Freese and utilityman Nick Punto have begun rehab stints and Mozeliak said they wouldn’t be rushed back. Mozeliak didn’t anticipate Allen Craig, on the DL with a knee injury, back for 3-4 weeks.

Lance Berkman took over at first base after the injury and could serve as the long-term fill-in at the position, although both Mozeliak and La Russa hedged on that. Berkman began the year as a full-time outfielder for the first time since 2004 and said earlier in the year that he anticipated outfield play to be easier on his legs because there would be fewer stops and starts.

“Getting Lance in a place where he’s physically feeling the best is a really good answer for us,” La Russa said.