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06/24/08 6:50 PM ET

Pujols on track for Thursday return

Slugger performs most extensive workout since June 10 injury

DETROIT -- You didn't need to see who was working out to know that something significant was going on at Comerica Park on Tuesday afternoon. All you needed to see was who was looking on.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and infield/third-base coach Jose Oquendo joined strength and conditioning coach Pete Prinzi as observers on the field prior to the first game of St. Louis' series against the Tigers. The man they were watching: Albert Pujols.

And they liked what they saw. Pujols did well in his most extensive workout since sustaining a left calf strain on June 10. The slugger has an excellent chance of being activated from the disabled list Thursday, the first day he is eligible to rejoin the active roster.

"I don't know," Pujols said after the workout. "We'll see how I recover tomorrow. This was my first time running the bases. It's something that I don't want to push."

Pujols ran extensively, and also took plenty of swings. It was by far his most extensive workout since he suffered the injury. If he feels no ill effects on Wednesday, he will go through a normal pregame workout. He said he is feeling no discomfort in his calf at this point.

"It feels pretty good right now," he said. "Believe me, if I felt anything, I don't think I would be out there running. I'm making good progress right now, and I don't want to go backwards. If I felt anything, I definitely would have pushed it back. I prefer to wait two or three more days and be ready than push myself back. When I come back, I want to be able to play and not have to worry about this thing again."

For the first four days of the Cardinals' current road trip, Pujols remained back in St. Louis. He joined the team in Detroit on Tuesday, an indication in itself of the progress he's making.

"I still think he's got to see how he comes back tomorrow from a good workout today," La Russa said. "And he's got to work out again tomorrow. But I believe there's a chance he could play [Thursday]."

For the first day or two of Pujols' return, he might be utilized as a designated hitter. But he said he would not want to do that for more than one or two games.

Pujols isn't the only progressing Cardinal. Yadier Molina, who has been limited for more than a week due to a concussion, got the start at catcher on Tuesday. It was his first time starting behind the plate since sustaining the injury on June 15. On the negative side, however, reliever Chris Perez was sent back to the team hotel Tuesday due to a flu-like illness.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.