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05/08/12 2:47 AM ET

Craig pulled as precaution after banging knee

PHOENIX -- Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig was pulled in the eighth inning on Monday night for precautionary reasons after banging his surgically repaired right knee while diving for a ball defensively.

The play occurred in the sixth inning of the Cardinals' 9-6 win over the D-backs at Chase Field, and at that point Craig remained in the game. He homered to lead off the seventh and then was double-switched out in the eighth.

"I think he went down on it pretty hard, so we're keeping a close eye on it," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said after the game. "When we got the chance [we took him out]. He was a little iffy going up there for that at-bat, but he passed the test and he hit it out. But after that we knew we needed to get him out of there. I knew he wasn't moving the way he wanted to. We'll see what he looks like tomorrow."

Craig had offseason knee surgery and was just activated from the disabled list on May 1. He has played in five games since then.

Berkman aims for return to lineup on Friday

PHOENIX -- Cardinals first baseman Lance Berkman said his injured left calf feels so good, he hopes to come off the disabled list and return to action when the club opens a three-game series against the Braves on Friday night at Busch Stadium.

"We'll see how it goes, but that's what we're talking about," said a happy Berkman after the Cardinals vanquished the D-backs, 9-6, on Monday night at Chase Field.

Berkman was eligible to come off the disabled list this past Friday in Houston and was just as upbeat about his chances of being activated. That didn't happen after he felt some pain while jogging. His last two sessions on Sunday and Monday were much more positive. Berkman jogged Sunday, repeated that on Monday and also took some ground balls.

Still manager Mike Matheny would rather view the progress with caution.

"He's going to have to do some other things, like full-out running, moving from side to side," Matheny said. "Until he does that, it makes no sense to put any timeline on it."

Berkman has been dealing with a recurring calf injury since early in the season and felt a real twinge in the leg after he went back to catch a foul pop in a game against the Reds at St. Louis on April 18. He hasn't played since.

Berkman originally tore the calf muscle during at Cincinnati on April 10 and sat out a week before injuring it again. He was then placed on the 15-day disabled list. Berkman was hitting .348 with no homers and two RBIs when he went down.

Cards eager to dig in vs. non-Central opponents

PHOENIX -- Save for a victory in their season opener at the Marlins' new ballpark, the Cardinals have fattened up on opponents in the National League Central, putting together a 16-11 record against their division foes to take a perch in first place.

This three-game series that opened on Monday night against the D-backs at Chase Field began a stretch in which the defending World Series champs will play 25 of their next 27 against teams from the rest of the NL.

"I think guys are just anxious to see other teams instead of the same ones all the time," Cards manager Mike Matheny said. "You see a lot of that in the spring, too. You keep seeing the same teams. It's nice to mix it up a little bit. But again, it all comes down to what we do in the Central. The two Wild Card spots are important, too, but our goal is to win the Central. The only way you're going to do that is to beat Central Division teams."

As far as that's concerned, the Cardinals really didn't create a lot of open space between themselves and the rest of the division. They opened Monday with a 2 1/2-game lead over the Reds, who are largely considered to be their greatest adversary this season.

"I really do think there's a benefit to us for playing well through the first six weeks," Matheny said. "My read is that we can't take any of those [Central] teams lightly. I don't think we have. Somebody throws a tag on a team that they're rebuilding or going on a youth movement, but we're still seeing some pretty good baseball from these teams. Houston was a good example of that. They gave us a tough time. You just can't fall in these traps."

Cards set to honor Bat Girl on Mother's Day

PHOENIX -- Cyndi Stotler is the Cardinals' 2012 Honorary Bat Girl Winner, Major League Baseball announced on Monday.

All 15 teams hosting games will honor their Honorary Bat Girls on Mother's Day this Sunday. The Cardinals are home at Busch Stadium to play the Braves in a 1:15 p.m. CT start. The other 15 have been asked to pick an alternate date.

The program recognizes baseball fans whose lives have been affected by breast cancer.

Each winner was selected by a guest judging panel that included MLB players and celebrities in addition to fan votes cast on HonoraryBatGirl.com.

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.