ST. LOUIS — Concluding a news briefing about Albert Pujols’ injury that killed the mood at Tony La Russa’s charity golf event, the St. Louis Cardinals manager let down his guard.
“I’m going to go find a place to cry,” La Russa said.
Pujols will be out an estimated six weeks with a fractured left wrist from a first-base collision over the weekend. Baseball will be without a three-time NL MVP and the Cardinals, tied for first in the NL Central, are left to absorb another devastating blow in a season marred by injuries.
“You can’t replace a player of his magnitude,” general manager John Mozeliak said. “It just seems like we’ve had to deal with one injury after another.
“We still have to find ways to win games, and that’s what we’ll do.”
The team announced the results of an MRI and CT scan Monday, one day after Pujols was injured during a home game against Kansas City. The injury is a non-displaced fracture of the left radius bone and his arm is in a splint.
Mozeliak said he hoped to have Pujols back by the beginning of August and the team anticipated no lingering effects from what the general manager described as a small fracture. Mozeliak said Pujols’ left shoulder was sore but no structural damage was found.
Though his .279 average is 50 points below his career numbers, Pujols was starting to heat up after a slow start and went 3 for 3 with a homer in his last at-bat on Sunday. He’s among the league leaders with 17 homers and 45 RBIs.
Pujols was hurt trying to make a tag after taking an off-line throw from second baseman Pete Kozma and the Royals’ Wilson Betemit collided with the glove hand.
“He hit me on my wrist and my shoulder,” Pujols said afterward. “He kind of jammed me back. It’s the toughest play to make as a first baseman. It’s a bang-bang play. I saw the replay a couple of times, but I didn’t really want to look at it.”
Betemit said there was no way to avoid the collision.
“I was running hard and the ball arrived at the same time I got to the base,” Betemit said. “That’s part of the game. I couldn’t do anything about it.”
Mozeliak said he hadn’t spoken with Pujols, who had been optimistic after the game that the injury wasn’t serious.
“I was optimistic we were going to get better news,” Mozeliak said. “I really was.”
The 31-year-old Pujols is due to enter free agency this fall after rejecting a multiyear contract extension at the start of spring training. He will be placed on the 15-day disabled list for only the third time in his career and the Cardinals said they would announce a roster move before Tuesday night’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Among the top options are first baseman-outfielder Mark Hamilton and infielder Tyler Greene, both of whom were optioned to Triple-A Memphis last week.
St. Louis was tied with the Brewers atop the NL Central despite the latest in a string of injuries. Pujols was hurt three days after cleanup hitter Matt Holliday returned from a quadriceps injury that landed him on the 15-day disabled list, and Holliday also missed time following an appendectomy.
Third baseman David Freese, second baseman Skip Schumaker and pitcher Kyle McClellan also have missed significant time for a franchise that early in spring training lost 20-game winner Adam Wainwright for the season.
“It’s tough,” pitcher Kyle Lohse said. “It’s kind of been the story to the season, it just seems like every month something’s happening.”
Freese and utilityman Nick Punto have begun rehab stints and Mozeliak said they wouldn’t be rushed back. Mozeliak didn’t anticipate Allen Craig, on the DL with a knee injury, back for 3-4 weeks.
Lance Berkman took over at first base after the injury and could serve as the long-term fill-in at the position, although both Mozeliak and La Russa hedged on that. Berkman began the year as a full-time outfielder for the first time since 2004 and said earlier in the year that he anticipated outfield play to be easier on his legs because there would be fewer stops and starts.
“Getting Lance in a place where he’s physically feeling the best is a really good answer for us,” La Russa said.