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08/03/08 7:33 PM ET

Ankiel closer to rejoining Cards' lineup

Center fielder not able to run at full speed due to ab strain

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals center fielder Rick Ankiel is inching closer toward returning to the lineup, but whether he plays on Tuesday against the Dodgers remains in question.

Making his first appearance since he was diagnosed with a lower abdominal strain, Ankiel pinch-hit on Saturday against the Phillies and struck out to end the game. While he could swing a bat, the injury has limited Ankiel's running to the point where he would have been out on any type of ground ball, he said.

"I've never felt it swinging," Ankiel said. "Just running. It's day-to-day. I feel good and it's progressing. I'm just working hard to get back."

Even though he has been held out of the lineup since July 29, manager Tony La Russa said Ankiel has made enough progress to where the club does not have to put him on the disabled list.

"We just have to make sure when he's ready," La Russa said.

Lee Hurwitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.