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08/09/08 4:20 PM ET

Ankiel out of lineup, but nearing return

Strained abdominal muscle holding outfielder back

CHICAGO -- Another day passed without Rick Ankiel's name appearing in the Cardinals' lineup, but manager Tony La Russa insisted Saturday that Ankiel is very close to being ready to play.

Ankiel has been hampered for two weeks by a strained abdominal muscle. He worked out extensively on Friday and felt some discomfort when he ran at full speed.

"He's very close, but when he really tries to chase a ball in the outfield or run 100 percent on the bases, he still feels a little twinge," La Russa said. "The trainers feel he's OK. He's passing all the training tests. But I don't think he's comfortable."

The club had hoped that Ankiel would be cleared on Friday, but when he still felt some lingering effects from the injury, he was pulled back a bit.

"He felt something yesterday," La Russa said on Saturday morning. "Today is the next day. Even if he's feeling better, we're going to give him 24 hours. He's concerned [that] he could be out there and make a bad move and waste all these days."

Ankiel's availability remains a day-to-day situation. He can be used as a pinch-hitter, though he must be pinch-run for when he gets on base. It is only when Ankiel runs that he has difficulty.

"Swinging does not present any problem," La Russa said. "And at this point, neither does almost-maximum running."

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