05/16/11 11:43 PM ET
Pujols shows no rust playing third base
By Matthew Leach and Austin Laymance / MLB.com
About two hours prior to the Cardinals' game against the Phillies on Monday night, the Redbirds announced that Pujols would start at third base, rather than at first, where he has played almost exclusively for the past seven-plus seasons. Pujols last started at third base on Sept. 23, 2002. He last started at a position other than first on Sept. 28, 2003, when he played left field.
Pujols had five chances and handled them smoothly. He made one rather slick play on a Ben Francisco grounder in the seventh and started a double play. He won't play at third again on Tuesday, manager Tony La Russa said, but it may not be the last time he appears there.
"Am I going to be there tomorrow? Am I going to be there the rest of the year? Of course not," Pujols said. "That's why you see me taking ground balls there at shortstop. You just never know. I'm a first baseman, but as you know, I played shortstop in high school, I came up as a third baseman and I love the action. I love to take ground balls at different places, because you just never know when the team is going to need you."
When La Russa initially posted his lineup, it had Pujols at first as usual. However, Pujols approached La Russa and offered to play third, and the manager took him up on it. Nick Punto moved from third base to second, Allen Craig from second to right field and Lance Berkman from right to first.
"The whole thing centered on Albert," La Russa said. "Albert volunteered to play third. I wouldn't have really come forward unless we had a lot more reasons to do it."
The manager did not say whether he had plans to use Pujols at third base beyond Monday night, though he certainly didn't rule it out. The Cardinals are without regular third baseman David Freese, who is sidelined with a broken bone in his left hand.
"I don't make those calls," Pujols said. "I'm ready to play whenever he needs me there, but hopefully that doesn't happen too many times. But whenever he needs me, I will be ready to play. Like I said, this is not about myself, this is about this organization and helping this ballclub to win and whatever it takes I'm available to do it."
Pujols was initially moved from third base at the start of the 2002 season, when the Cardinals decided that their best defensive alignment featured him in left field and Placido Polanco at third. Following an elbow injury during the 2003 season, he began playing some first base, and since the start of '04, Pujols has been the Cards' first baseman.
La Russa said he had no significant concerns about Pujols' elbow on the other side of the diamond, and that he did not confer with general manager John Mozeliak or the team's training staff before making the move. Pujols expressed no worry about the joint.
"Everybody is thinking about my arm," Pujols said. "My arm is great. You know I got it fixed two years ago and I feel good. You know it's not about Albert Pujols, it's not about Allen Craig, it's about how can we contribute to our ballclub, and I was like, 'Hey, give me a shot there, and if I don't look good, then you know that will be the last time that I approach it.'"
Pujols also played 1 1/3 innings of third base on May 1 in Atlanta.
Rehab stints forthcoming for several Redbirds
ST. LOUIS -- Brian Tallet is headed for a Minor League rehabilitation assignment, and he may be followed shortly thereafter by two teammates.
Tallet, who has been sidelined since April 13 due to a broken bone in his right hand, will report to Class A Quad Cities to pitch on Tuesday night. He has been pitching regularly since suffering the injury, so it's entirely possible that his rehab will be relatively brief. The Cardinals have gone with one left-handed reliever in their bullpen in his absence, and that is not the club's preference.
Additionally, Skip Schumaker and Bryan Augenstein may be headed out soon as well. Schumaker, recovering from a strained right triceps muscle, hopes to go on a rehab assignment by the end of the week. It's unclear how much time Schumaker will need in the Minors. He has not played since April 15.
"Our team is doing good right now, and I'm not going to jump in just to be selfish," said Schumaker. "I want to make sure I'm ready and my timing is down, that type of thing, before I want to be ready to go and not just jump in because I've been gone for a while."
Augenstein, who suffered a strained right groin on the same night that Tallet was injured, has begun throwing off the mound and is getting closer to pitching in games.
"I'm pretty close to going somewhere," he said. "I threw my third bullpen [session] today. It went pretty well today. It's definitely not 100 percent game-ready, but it's getting there."
Todd returns to Cardinals on waiver claim
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals claimed right-handed pitcher Jess Todd off waivers from the Yankees on Monday and immediately optioned the 25-year-old to Triple-A Memphis.
Todd was a member of the Cardinals in 2009 and made one relief appearance before the team included him in a trade with Cleveland that brought Mark DeRosa to St. Louis.
The Cardinals transferred right-handed pitcher Bryan Augenstein to the 60-day disabled list to make room for Todd on the 40-man roster. Augenstein, sidelined with a strained right groin, is eligible to be reinstated to the active roster on June 12.
Todd was 0-1 with a 10.97 ERA in 10 games with the Triple-A affiliates for Cleveland and New York. He projects to be a relief pitcher with Memphis.
Abdominal discomfort sidelines Rasmus
ST. LOUIS -- Center fielder Colby Rasmus underwent an ultrasound procedure on Monday and was absent from the Cardinals' lineup for a second straight game with abdominal discomfort. Jon Jay started in center and batted second against the Phillies on Monday.
Rasmus said the injury occurred while working out during St. Louis' off-day on May 9, then aggravated it when he collided with the outfield wall while trying to rob a home run in Saturday's 7-3 loss in Cincinnati.
"Yesterday was probably the worst it's felt after doing that, but today it already feels better," he said.
Rasmus met with team physician John Ellena prior to Monday's game with the Phillies. He shagged fly balls, but did not participate in batting practice on the field.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.