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Baseball notes: Pujols one fast healer

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols could return to action before the All-Star break. (Associated Press)
St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols could return to action before the All-Star break. (Associated Press)

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols’ fractured left wrist has shown “significant improvement” following aggressive treatment to promote healing of the bone, likely allowing the three-time National League Most Valuable Player to return to the club immediately after the All-Star break, if not before, according to sources familiar with the situation.

A follow-up CT scan performed on Friday found a diminished fissure on the distal tip of Pujols’ left radius, which was damaged when Kansas City Royals third baseman Wilson Betemit collided with Pujols on a play at first base during the teams’ June 19 game at Busch Stadium.

Team doctors initially projected Pujols’ return at 4-6 weeks and prescribed that he remain in a soft cast for up to four weeks before resuming baseball-related activities.

Pujols will be examined again on Monday when the Cardinals open a three-game series at Busch Stadium against the Cincinnati Reds. Unless a fresh concern arises, it is expected that Pujols will be cleared to immediately resume baseball-related activities. Such clearance would make it nearly certain, barring a setback, that Pujols would be activated when the team returns from the All-Star break in Cincinnati on July 15.

The club has been told that a best-case scenario could allow Pujols to appear in this week’s four-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Cardinals are likely to proceed cautiously, however, and may urge Pujols to take advantage of the All-Star break before returning.

“I don’t want to get into speculation,” manager Tony La Russa said. “I’m just glad there is a lot of good news on that front.

“When I looked at four to six weeks that was not after the All-Star break,” the manager said. “It looks like we’re going to get him back sooner than that.

“I just know he’s making progress. That’s encouraging, and that’s enough.”

Pujols landed on the disabled list June 20. He becomes eligible to exit the DL on Tuesday.

Pujols had begun to surge prior to the injury, raising his average to .279 with 17 home runs, 52 runs scored and 45 RBIs. He drove a home run in the inning before being injured.

Clearing the bases

Chicago Cubs center fielder Marlon Byrd, who missed six weeks after being hit in the face with a pitch, was activated off the 15-day disabled list and in the lineup against the White Sox. … The Milwaukee Brewers activated right-handed pitcher Takashi Saito from the 60-day disabled list and optioned right-handed pitcher Tim Dillard to Triple-A Nashville.