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08/07/08 2:31 PM ET

Ankiel nearing return to starting lineup

Cards outfielder making progress with abdominal injury

ST. LOUIS -- After missing 11 straight starts because of a lower abdominal strain, it appears Cardinals outfielder Rick Ankiel is very close to returning to the lineup.

While Ankiel did not talk about his injury on Thursday, manager Tony La Russa shed some light on the situation, saying he was pleased with Ankiel's progress. If the slugger can come back this weekend, it would be a huge boost for the Cardinals as they square up against the division-leading Cubs.

"He had a good workout today," La Russa said. "I was hoping he would play yesterday, but Mother Nature said not. He had a good running day today, so I think it is more likely that he can play the weekend, but it's not guaranteed."

Since he sustained the injury on July 26, Ankiel has had trouble running. He has been allowed to pinch-hit, going 1-for-3 with a single and a walk in five plate appearances. In the midst of a breakout year, Ankiel is batting .282 with 22 home runs and 60 RBIs.

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