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7/25/2013 1:21 A.M. ET

Gast to undergo surgery for left lat tear

ST. LOUIS -- Left-hander John Gast will undergo surgery Friday to repair a tear in his left lat, which he said will likely keep him out another four to five months. 

Gast was placed on the 15-day disabled list May 26, diagnosed with a left shoulder strain. In his third start of the season May 25, he exited after facing just six batters, citing discomfort in the back part of his shoulder. 

Although initially expected to return within a month or two, the 25-year-old rookie said Wednesday that the muscle was progressing "poorly." 

"That's obviously why we needed to have surgery," Gast said, "because it wasn't getting better." 

Manager Mike Matheny said in late June that he didn't expect Gast to be out so long with the injury, adding that he was still a few weeks away from beginning a throwing program. 

"He's still moving along pretty slowly in the rehab process," Matheny said June 22. "But it sounds like it's a pretty complicated injury that does take time." 

Gast was called up in May to start for an injured Jake Westbrook and made his Major League debut May 14, a 10-4 win over the Mets. Gast improved his record to 2-0 his second time out before taking a no-decision in his injury-shortened third start.

Cardinals have trio among NL hitting leaders

ST. LOUIS -- Three out of four of the National League's best hitters share a clubhouse. 

With a 3-for-5 performance in Wednesday's 11-3 win over the Phillies, Yadier Molina remained atop the NL with a .339 average, followed closely by Allen Craig's .337 after he went 2-for-4. Teammate Matt Carpenter isn't far behind, raising his average to .326 after also going 2-for-4, good for fourth place. Colorado's Michael Cuddyer ranks No. 3 with a .328 mark. 

"I think that's pretty cool that we have three of the top guys in the league in hitting and a bunch of guys on the team that are doing an awesome job, too," Craig said. "We have a really good thing going offensively as a collective group, and I feel like it's something where not one guy has to shoulder the load."

Since June 20, Craig is batting a Major League-best .421 (40-for-95), with hits in 24 of 26 games, while Carpenter leads all big league hitters with 40 multi-hit games. Craig and Molina are the first pair of Cardinals to hit over .330 through 97 games since Joe Torre (.353) and Lou Brock (.336) did it in 1971. 

"I know I've said it a million times, but it's really a pass-the-baton type thing," Craig said. "Get a base hit, take a walk, just drive in one and let the next guy get a shot at driving you in. It's a really fun thing to be a part of."

Matheny: Game wouldn't miss home-plate collisions

ST. LOUIS -- Mike Matheny recently received a call from another baseball player, a catcher, seeking out advice on dealing with the symptoms of concussions, a subject in which the Cardinals' skipper is well versed. 

Matheny was forced into retirement in 2007 after concussions ended his 13-year playing career, which has helped shape the four-time Gold Glove catcher's perspective on home-plate collisions. 

"I think people give too much credit to the equipment that the catchers are wearing. It's not collision equipment, it's deflecting-ball equipment," Matheny said. "I think it's a play that the game would move on just fine without."

Matheny has publicly advocated that baseball should ban home-plate collisions all together, for both the safety of the catcher and the runner. 

"The game's gone on a long way with it like this, and I imagine it still will," Matheny said. "I just think for us to not take all this information that's coming in through hockey and football and do something proactive to be ahead of it, I think it would be a mistake at least not to research what could possibly be done.

"I just hate to see somebody go through it. It's not a fun run."

Worth noting

• Matheny said the Cardinals intend to take advantage of the 26th-man rule for Tuesday's doubleheader in Pittsburgh. He said they will likely add an additional bullpen arm for the day.

• Wednesday was likely the last day the Cardinals can use Joe Kelly in an emergency relief situation and still have him start Saturday in Atlanta. Matheny said Kelly could pitch an inning in place of a regular bullpen session.

"I've told him to stay ready," Matheny said. "If we get into a situation where we need somebody to throw some innings to keep us in the game, we'll jump on the opportunity we have right now and deal with what we have later, later."

• The Cardinals took some bunting practice Wednesday afternoon for the second time this season.

"The bunt is not a part of everybody's game, but there's some guys on our team that need to be able to pull it off," Matheny said. "And you can't expect to pull it off in a high-pressure, high-velocity situation if you're not working on it."

• The Cardinals announced Mizzou and Illini Nights as two new theme nights for the 2013 season. On Aug. 23, Illinois men's basketball coach John Groce will be on hand to toss out the ceremonial first pitch when the Cardinals host the Braves for Illini Night. And on Aug. 24, fans can join Missouri athletes, Golden Girls and the Mizzou traveling band in Riverview Corner.

Each night will feature an Illini- and Mizzou-themed Cardinals baseball cap for fans who purchase a themed ticket.

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