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09/11/08 12:20 AM ET

Ab injury will limit Cards' Ankiel

Outfielder available to pinch-hit, but likely won't play in field

ST. LOUIS -- Rick Ankiel's lower abdominal injury continues to plague the Cardinals outfielder, and he will be sidelined for at least the next couple of days as a result -- and possibly for a good bit longer. Ankiel will see a specialist later this week for a second opinion on the injury.

"I'm not sure how much more Ank's going to play," manager Tony La Russa said Wednesday. "He's just not getting better. ... We'll get him checked and see what's the smartest thing to do."

Ankiel first sustained the injury on July 26 in New York. He was limited to pinch-hitting duty for the next two weeks, returning to the lineup on Aug. 11. Since his return, he has played only left field, rather than his usual center, and in recent weeks he has been held out of action against left-handed pitching.

Now he won't even start against right-handers.

"We're going to check it out and see where I'm at," said Ankiel. "It's not getting better. We just want to make sure that we can do what we can, and see what we need to do."

Despite the injury, both La Russa and general manager John Mozeliak emphasized that Ankiel is available to come off the bench.

"If he was needed, he's available," Mozeliak said. "But we are going to have him go get a second opinion this week, and then pending the results of that, it will dictate where we go with him. ... He feels good some days and not so good the next. It's not where he can go full gear yet, full-bore."

The diagnosis of Ankiel's injury is still a lower abdominal strain, but the continued nagging nature of it is a concern for the club.

"Running, it's tough," said Ankiel. "And I feel like it's been tough to generate power. So we're going to be thorough about it."

"He just hasn't gotten better," La Russa said. "He hasn't really been productive. He's limited in his swing. We may need him to play defense. He may have to pinch-hit. But it will be limited."

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