Pujols expected to miss about six weeks
Non-displaced fracture of left forearm has slugger in a splint
ST. LOUIS -- As Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak participated in a Monday golf tournament to benefit manager Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation, he received the news he was hoping to avoid. The club's head athletic trainer, Greg Hauck, called Mozeliak to tell him that first baseman Albert Pujols has a broken bone in the area of his left wrist.
Pujols will miss approximately six weeks because of the injury, which he suffered in Sunday's win over the Royals. The Cardinals had hoped that Pujols had avoided a fracture, and in fact X-rays on Sunday seemed to indicate that was the case. But a CT scan on Monday showed a small fracture.
Mozeliak did his best not to show his displeasure as he finished out the day, as did La Russa with a separate group on the course. But there was little getting around it: This is a bad day for the Cardinals. Officially, Pujols has a non-displaced fracture of his left radius, which is one of the two main bones in the forearm. More to the point, though, the break is in his wrist, one of the worst places a hitter can be injured.
"He does have a fracture in his left wrist," Mozeliak told reporters on Monday afternoon. "In the terms of whether it's mild or extreme, it is mild in that regard. But it's still going to require probably six weeks of very little baseball activity. On a hopeful note, we hope to have him back by, say, beginning of August."
In the sixth inning of Sunday's game, Pujols collided with Kansas City's Wilson Betemit on a play at first base after Betemit hit a slow roller up the middle. Second baseman Pete Kozma fielded the ball and made a hurried throw that tailed away from first base, toward the infield grass. When Pujols lurched for the ball, he and the charging Betemit made contact.
Pujols underwent an MRI exam and a CT scan on Monday morning and has been placed in a splint that, according to Mozeliak, will remain in place for four weeks, almost certainly keeping Pujols out of action for six weeks.
"It's one of those weird plays that happen in the game that you just can't avoid," Pujols said on Sunday. "I wish that it didn't happen, but it does happen. It doesn't [just] happen to me. It happens to a lot of first basemen in the game."
Pujols also complained of discomfort in his left shoulder following the collision. The club announced in its press release that "no structural damage" was found in the shoulder at the time of Monday's examination. Mozeliak said at the news conference that Pujols suffered no significant injuries besides the break.
Mozeliak and La Russa also both said that they do not expect the injury to be a problem for Pujols in the long term. A fracture of the radius should be less problematic than an injury to one of the smaller bones in the wrist, such as the hamate.
"All the medical people feel that this shouldn't be a problem," Mozeliak said. "But obviously, wrists are always a concern when you're dealing with hitters, so it's something that we'll just have to work through. In his case, he already has a pretty strong grip, as it is -- meaning, as they were testing it this morning, that part, he's already ahead of the curve. With that said, most doctors and the medical staff are optimistic this won't be something that lingers for him."
The top vote-getter among National League first basemen for the 2011 All-Star Game as of Monday's results, Pujols is batting .279 with a .355 on-base percentage, a .500 slugging percentage, 17 home runs and 45 RBIs. He will assuredly miss the Midsummer Classic, though, as it's three weeks away. Six weeks from Monday would be Aug. 1.
Pujols has come on strong of late after a relatively slow start to the season. He has been on the disabled list twice before in his career -- in June 2006 with a left oblique strain and June '08 with a left calf strain. Both times, Pujols returned sooner than the originally projected recovery time.
The Cardinals said they will announce a roster move prior to their upcoming series against the Phillies. Both La Russa and Mozeliak downplayed any assumption that Lance Berkman would be the primary first baseman while Pujols is unavailable.
The club could call up first baseman Mark Hamilton, who was recently sent down. Typically, a player must remain in the Minor Leagues for 10 days after he is optioned, but that requirement is waived if the player is recalled due to an injury on the Major League roster. Other options on the 40-man roster include infielder Matt Carpenter and outfielder Adron Chambers. The Cardinals' 40-man roster is full, so it would be difficult to bring in a player not currently on that list.
"We need to call up somebody that fits in to the most needs that one guy can fit in and deserves a promotion," La Russa said.
Pujols becomes the eighth Cardinals player currently on the disabled list. The club has used the DL 14 times for 12 players this season, including three times for players with broken bones in the general area of the wrist, hand or upper arm.
Perhaps more tellingly, Pujols is the third major star to hit the DL this year for the Cardinals, joining Adam Wainwright, who had season-ending right elbow surgery, and Matt Holliday, who was recently activated after missing 15 days with a left quadriceps strain. Counting Wainwright, five members of the club's projected Opening Day lineup have been on the DL this year.
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.