Notes: Walker cleared to play

Cards notes: Walker cleared to play

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals team doctor George Paletta has cleared outfielder Larry Walker to play, provided he can deal with the pain of a minor herniated disc.

On Thursday, Walker received a magnetic resonance imaging test to determine the severity of a herniated disc that has limited movement in his neck. A herniated disc leaks fluid, causing other nerves to swell because of the irritation.

Walker was available as a pinch hitter during Thursday's game but did not end up being used.

"I had a shot [of cortisone before the season], and that relieved a lot for about a month, but the pain has been the same since," Walker said. "I've been dealing with it. It's just that some days, lately, it's been a lot worse."

Paletta said that over the weekend, team doctors will continue to use different medications such as anti-inflammatory medicine and an oral form of cortisone on Walker.

"We will evaluate him every 24-to-48 hours over the weekend," Paletta said. "If things are not dramatically better with these, we will probably be looking at another injection."

Walker had a cortisone injection during the spring, but Paletta said that Walker would rather avoid being injected with a needle again.

"Larry is not too terribly enthusiastic about having a needle stuck in his neck," Paletta said. "If we can avoid that, I certainly think it is reasonable."

If the medications don't work, then Paletta will use a needle injection.

"The next step is going to an evasive treatment, which would mean an injection putting cortisone locally around the nerve root to see if we can take some of the pressure off the nerve root."

Paletta said that Walker will be available on a "limited basis."

"In some ways, it's similar to [Jim] Edmonds' ribs. It's safe for Jimmy to go out and play, but as you knew, for seven to eight days, he did not have enough comfort to do that. ... The plan is to re-evaluate him every day, or every other day, to see how he responds to the treatment."

"I'll go out there and keep playing with it, but if the doctor tells me otherwise, I'll take his advice," Walker said. "My advice is to take a couple of Advil and go get 'em."

The ailments have limited his playing time and his effectiveness. Walker is hitting just .249 this season compared to a career batting average of .312 and has missed a third of the Cardinals' games. Because of the injuries, Walker has said that this season will likely be his last one.

Manager Tony La Russa said that Walker's status is day-to-day, but that he tries to spell him when possible.

"I look at Larry every day and check to see how he feels and who we can cover him best with," said La Russa.

Walker said that he is confident the injury is not too serious, but expressed concern with the location of the injury.

"I'm pretty sure I don't want to mess up my neck," Walker said. "Your neck pretty much goes down and controls everything.

"It freaks me out a little bit, but if nothing is wrong and I can't mess it up anymore, I'll go out and play with it."

Grudzielanek cleared: Second baseman Mark Grudzielanek was hit on the hand by a pitch in the ninth inning. He said that his hand is just a bit swollen, but that the x-rays came back negative and he will be ready to play on Friday.

Handpicked All-Stars: The success of two Cardinals pitchers may put La Russa in a difficult position.

La Russa, who will manage the National League team in the All-Star Game, might have to choose between his top two pitchers to start the game: Chris Carpenter (10-4, 3.01 ERA) and Matt Morris (8-0, 3.16, before Thursday's start)

La Russa passed on talking about the possibility that he could have the final say, noting that the players get to vote first.

"That will be decided by their peers," La Russa said. "We'll wait and see how they vote. I won't sweat it out until the time comes."

La Russa was fairly candid about his coaching selections: Giants manager Felipe Alou, Brewers manager Ned Yost, and George Kissell, the Cardinals' former Minor League field coordinator.

Kissell was with the organization since 1940 as a Minor League player, coach, manager, scout and field coordinator. He retired at the end of last season.

"I love the first time All-Stars," La Russa said, noting that Yost will be coaching in his first All-Star Game. "As a manager, when you pick those first-time guys, they light up like nobody else. The most excited was George Kissell."

La Russa said it did not occur to him that he would be managing the All-Star Game until well after the World Series.

"I didn't think about it until I got to the Winter Meetings," La Russa said. "That shows you're getting old, when you are forgetful."

Sparking success: As La Russa continues to climb the all-time list of managerial wins, he has reflected back on memories of some of the great names he continues to pass, including Sparky Anderson. La Russa trails his former mentor by 35 wins for third place all-time.

"Over the years, you understand his wisdom -- nuggets -- not just for your managing life, but your real life," said La Russa. "He would unload everything he knew; he was the best. When that game started though, he's trying to beat you."

Cedeno healthy: Reserve outfielder Roger Cedeno is ready to be activated from the 15-day disabled list, and is being watched by general manager Walt Jocketty during his stint at Triple-A Memphis. Cedeno is nursing a hamstring injury.

"He's healthy," La Russa reported. "He hasn't been real productive, but he is healthy."

Cedeno, who made it clear that he did not think his injury was severe enough for him to be placed on the disabled list, is batting just .158 (9-for-57) this season with eight RBIs.

The future: Double-A right-hander Chris Lambert has been tapped to pitch for the United States team in the XM Satellite Radio All-Star Futures Game on July 10 in Detroit. Also going to the Futures game will be Dyar Miller, the pitching coach for Triple-A Memphis.

Among the numerous big leaguers who played in the annual Minor League showcase game are current Cardinals Mark Mulder and Brad Thompson.

Today in Busch history: On June 23, 2004, the Cardinals played what La Russa later considered to be the turning-point game of their season.

A day after the Cubs dealt the Redbirds a difficult comeback loss to pull within a game of first-place, the Cards rallied from a 9-5 deficit to beat Chicago, 10-9. The night may be most famous for Steve Kline's obscene gesture when he wasn't called on to pitch in the sixth inning -- though Kline later became the winning pitcher.

Baby Birds: Kevin Jarvis pitched seven strong innings and Bo Hart went 3-for-4 with a home run, as Triple-A Memphis beat Round Rock, 2-1, on Wednesday. ... Springfield was off for the last day of the Texas League All-Star break. ... Class A Palm Beach lost, 7-4, to Daytona despite a strong day from Jarrett Hoffpauir. The second baseman doubled, tripled and walked. ... Class A Quad Cities was also off, for the Midwest League's All-Star break. ... Short-season New Jersey was held to three hits, two of them Brandon Yarbrough doubles, in a 4-0 loss to Williamsport. ... Colby Rasmus went 2-for-4 with a double for rookie-level Johnson City in a 2-1 win over Kingsport.

Despite not receiving a decision, Jarvis is the player of the day, continuing his strong season. The right-hander struck out five and walked one, allowing one run on five hits over seven innings. He's 5-2 with a 2.64 ERA for Memphis this year.

Coming up: The four-game series between the Cardinals and Pirates continues on Friday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Jeff Suppan will take the ball for the Cards against the team for which he pitched in 2003.

Stephen Norris is a contributor to Matthew Leach is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.