St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols collided with Wilson Betemit on June 19th, and he was diagnosed with a wrist fracture. The injury looked horrific, with Pujols's glove hand bending back in ways that were completely unnatural. He was supposed to be out until August.
So it's more than a little surprising that Pujols is ready to be activated just two weeks later. From Brian Stull:
I've got confirmation that Albert Pujols was cleared by the doctor today and can return ... Roster move to make room for Pujols not clear yet
This is absolutely one of the most surprising comebacks since Roger Clemens was in George Steinbrenner's luxury box, announcing he was a Yankee again. Pujols had a broken wrist. Now he doesn't, two weeks after he suffered the injury. Freaky.
The Cardinals have been playing Lance Berkman at first, allowing Jon Jay to get regular time in the outfield. The odd man out would appear to be Mark Hamilton, who was called up after the Pujols injury, and who hasn't hit a lick upon his promotion.
For those of you curious as to exactly where Pujols's injury was, Baseball Nation has obtained an exclusive picture of his x-ray, which should answer a lot of questions:
Pujols, who fractured his wrist on a collision at first base on June 19 against the Royals, has been on the 15-day disabled list since June 20 and was initially expected to be out for at least four weeks. While Pujols was coy about his imminent return, saying he still had four weeks to go, he didn't rule out the possibility of suiting up on Tuesday, the first day he is eligible to come off the DL.
"It can be tomorrow," Pujols said on Monday. "If it's not, then whenever the time comes, it will be the right time to play."
Pujols appears to be better than other players even when it comes to returning from injuries, although it's also possible he's being unduly optimistic about his return date - players often are. He will have a doctor's appointment Tuesday morning, and after that, we should have a better sense of whether he will be able to return that night with the Cards face off against the Reds.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa says the upcoming All-Star break, which would give Pujols a few additional days to recover if he needed it, will not keep him from play Pujols if he's ready.
Pujols is hitting .279 this year with a .355 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage.
Lance Berkman has been playing first base in Pujols' absence. Berkman would shift back to right field if Pujols were to return, probably taking some playing time from Jon Jay. Pujols had been hitting like crazy in June before his injury.
Tuesday, the St. Louis Cardinals placed Albert Pujols on the disabled list. This isn't news - Pujols is going to need a lot more than 15 days to recover from a forearm fracture. To take his roster spot, the team recalled Mark Hamilton from triple-A Memphis. Hamilton hasn't hit well in a couple quick Major League trials, but he owns a 1.043 OPS this year with the Redbirds, and should get an occasional look at first base, spelling Lance Berkman.
More significant than Pujols' placement on the DL is his timetable. The initial reports said that Pujols would be out for 4-6 weeks. Joe Strauss says might be a bit optimistic:
Am told Pujols needs 4 weeks in cast but may need longer wait for baseball-related activies. Mid-August return more likely than early Aug.
So Pujols will spend about a month in a cast. Then, rehab and a gradual return to full activity, and Pujols might not return to the Cardinals' lineup until the middle of August. Which is roughly two months away.
It may be reported down the road that Albert Pujols is running behind in his recovery. In truth, it appears initial reports were just a little too sunny.
Pujols, after a very slow start, was tearing it up in June; in 63 at-bats he was hitting .317/.419/.778 with 8 HR and 14 RBI, including walkoff home runs in consecutive games against the Cubs. This raised his season averages to .279/.355/.500; he was tied for third in the NL with his teammate Lance Berkman with 17 home runs.
Berkman will likely take over first base while Pujols is out. The four-to-six week estimate could wind up being low. The Cubs’ Derrek Lee suffered a similar injury on an almost-identical collision with the Dodgers’ Rafael Furcal on April 25, 2006. Originally supposed to be out as long as Pujols, Lee missed two months, attempted to come back and then missed another six weeks, coming back in late August and finally shutting his season down. At the time, Lee was coming off a MVP-quality season in 2005; it took more than two years until his power returned to its previous level for his 2009 season.
We hope to have medical analysis of this injury from SB Nation’s medical expert, Dr. Ali Mohamadi, later today.
The big first baseman immediately acts as if he's in pain, hopping off the diamond and crumpling to the ground while holding his left forearm. At one point he looks like he's trying to stretch his arm out behind his back, and a closeup of the injured area does appear to be reddened.
The injury appeared to be to his left arm, with his wrist and hand area bending in an awkward way. Some are speculating he suffered a broken bone or even ligament damage, but nothing has been established yet; it could just be a gruesome sprain.
The preliminary evaluation, at least, is that it's only a sprain, according to ESPN's Brian Stull, and that a fuller report should be on its way for Monday. It's not much news, but for Cards fans it's about as good as it could possibly be.