ST. LOUIS -- Nick Punto's frustrating season continued on Friday, when the utility man was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique.

It's the third time this season that Punto has gone on the DL; he's already missed time with a sports hernia and a right forearm injury.

"He's important to us and he's a tough guy to have out," said manager Tony La Russa. "He does a lot of things for us."

Punto was lifted at the start of the fourth inning during Thursday's 5-3 loss to Houston after feeling discomfort in each of his two at-bats.

"I'm definitely frustrated," said Punto, who is batting .271 with no homers and 13 RBIs in 47 games this year. "It's been a trying season for me so far."

Infielder Tyler Greene was recalled from Triple-A Memphis to fill Punto's spot on the Cardinals' active roster. In 33 games at Triple-A, Greene hit .328 with six homers and 17 RBIs.

"I feel good about where I'm at and what I've been doing down there [in the Minors], so I'm just looking forward to carrying it over up here," Greene said.

Greene is hoping for a better stint with the Cardinals this time around. He hit .198 in 49 games before being optioned to Memphis on June 18.

Laird, Cruz believe they will avoid disabled list

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals lost two catchers to injuries during Thursday's 5-3 defeat to the Astros, but Gerald Laird and Tony Cruz remained confident on Friday that they would avoid trips to the disabled list.

Laird started behind the plate on Thursday but exited the game before the start of the third inning after spraining his left ring finger when he slid into home for the Cardinals' first run.

"I just tried to stick my hand in there and I jammed it on [the catcher's] shin guard when he dropped his leg back," Laird said. "I've just got to know better than to slide and put my fingers out there."

Cruz replaced Laird, but he left the game in the eighth inning with an injury of his own. The rookie sustained a right hand contusion after getting hit with a foul ball.

Cruz, though, took batting practice on the field and extra swings in the cage on Friday and said there were no issues with his hand.

"It's fine, maybe a little tender," Cruz said. "I'm good to go. It wasn't swollen or anything. It feels good today."

Both Laird and Cruz said they could play on Friday, while manager Tony La Russa said he would lean toward playing Cruz if needed.

"I think in an emergency, [Laird] could play," La Russa said. "He should get a little less pain every day, but I'd play him if I had to."

Laird is hitting .250 with seven RBIs in 56 at-bats over 20 games this season. He spent time on the DL earlier in the year with a fractured right index finger and was activated on July 7.

Cruz is hitting .288 with five RBIs in 52 at-bats over 29 games this year.

Berkman out of lineup for third straight game

ST. LOUIS -- Lance Berkman was held out of the starting lineup for the third straight game on Friday as the outfielder continues to recover from a right shoulder strain.

The slugger received a cortisone shot in the shoulder on Wednesday and has not played since Tuesday, when he went 0-for-2 before being removed from the game with discomfort in his injured shoulder.

Berkman said on Wednesday that he thought he would be ready to play by Friday, but manager Tony La Russa said the slugger would likely return this weekend against the Cubs.

"I think he'll have a chance to be out there [on Saturday]," La Russa said.

Berkman first felt something amiss during his final swing in Sunday's loss to the Pirates and sat out Monday's game against Houston. But the discomfort resurfaced during his second at-bat on Tuesday.

Corey Patterson, who was acquired in Wednesday's trade that sent outfielder Colby Rasmus to Toronto, started in right field in Berkman's stead for the second straight game on Friday and assumed the leadoff spot in the Cardinals' batting order.

"He's got the talent to be a No. 1 hitter," La Russa said.

Patterson entered Friday's matchup against Chicago with solid career numbers against Cubs starter Matt Garza, going 6-for-10 with a homer and a double in 11 plate appearances against the right-hander.

Berkman leads the National League with 27 home runs and is hitting .286 with a team-high 69 RBIs in 92 games this season.